From different parts of Ghana to the foreign terrains of Libya, Lebanon, Italy, and Moroc­co, four unrelated Ghanaians - Kofi, Ruth, Suleiman, and Pious - embarked on vastly distinct paths at dissimilar times in search of disparate dreams.

Little did they know that they would need mettle and more to brave thousands of miles of hardship and navigate the twisted labyrinth of experiences to successfully reinvent their lives from the ruins of adversity. Their names have been changed to give them anonymity.


In 2000, Kofi set out from Gha­na with dreams of prosperity, ini­tially as a chainsaw operator turned plasterer. He traversed perilous, unapproved routes to Libya, facing seven years of toil and three return trips. His journey took a harrowing turn with a horrific acid attack, leaving him physically and emo­tionally scarred. Denied medical care due to lack of documentation, Kofi embarked on a treacherous journey to Tripoli for treatment. In 2018, wheelchair-bound and with a leg amputated, he returned home. Now, Kofi and his wife helm a flourishing shoe business, defying the odds of disability. He declares, “Disability is not inability! Today, I am okay.”


Ruth’s journey, fuelled by the desperation to support her strug­gling family, led her to Lebanon. Promised a lucrative domestic work opportunity, she faced ex­ploitation and violence. Confiscat­ed passport, abuse, and two years without pay forced her escape. IOM’s Emergency Assistance Fund facilitated her return, and with reintegration aid, she invested in a cocoa farm. Amid rising infla­tion, Ruth dreams of growing her business to secure a brighter future for her family. “I want to continue growing my business so that I can support my son and the rest of my family,” she said.


Driven by 2015’s economic hardships, Suleiman, an apprentice electrician, embarked on the peril­ous Mediterranean Sea journey to Italy. After nine months of labour in Libya, he succeeded in reaching Italy but spent two challenging years in a refugee camp. Homeless­ness led him to Switzerland, where IOM intervened. Now back in Ghana, Suleiman thrives through hard work, owning land, a tricycle, and a motorbike. “My advice to the youth is that you can make it here if you work hard. If you must migrate, migrate the right way,” urges Suleiman.


Pious’ pursuit of an education in Morocco turned awry, leading to visa overstay and stranded am­bitions. IOM’s support enabled his return to Ghana. Amid scepticism, Pious channelled his resilience, enrolling in the Ghana Institute of Journalism. He envisions a future in international relations, advocat­ing for the right way of migration. “You had the opportunity to leave, and you came back? You couldn’t continue to Spain?” “Going to a country with no plan can be very frustrating,” Pious responds to critics.

In their journeys, these individu­als illuminate the intricate tapestry of migration, transcending trials to emerge resilient, hopeful, and empowered.

Their stories, etched with courage and tenacity, stand as a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to conquer challenges and redefine destinies.


Migration, a pervasive aspect of human history, manifests in diverse forms—internal or international, voluntary or forced, with varying levels of resources. People relocate for myriad reasons, encompassing economic betterment, political factors, conflicts, and environmental challenges. Notably, the United Nations has integrated migration into the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing its importance in SDGs 10 and 11, aimed at reducing inequality and fostering inclusive, resilient cities.

Migration has its benefits for both the host and countries of origin if done right. For instance, in 2020, the country received an esti­mated $4.3 billion in remittances, equating to more than six per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The Trend

A growing number of Gha­naians, particularly the youth, are venturing abroad in search of better opportunities in Europe and America. According to data from the Ghana Statistical Service, the 2021 Population and Housing Census recorded 293,416 Ghanaian emigrants, an increase from the 2010 figure of 250,624. The report unveiled in Accra, revealed that the majority of these emigrants were young adults with a median age of 35. Emigrants predominantly hailed from rural areas (78.6%) within the 20-49 age range. Europe hosted 37.6% of Ghanaian emigrants, with 23.6% in the Americas, while a significant third found destinations within Africa, mainly in ECOWAS countries. Côte d’Ivoire accounted for 7.3%, making it the leading West African destination, followed by Nigeria at 6.0%.


The lead writer of the report, Prof. John K. Anarfi, said the two main reasons people were leaving the country were to enable them to seek employment and education or training, while others were mar­riage-related and family reunion. He said more than half of the emigrant population originated from Greater Accra and Ashanti regions only, while other studies on migration in the country showed that there had been a stepwise migration pattern whereby people left small settlements and moved progressively to bigger towns until they ended up in the city.

“There is evidence that the country is no longer able to create jobs for its young adults, and they are being forced to look elsewhere for livelihood opportunities,” he said.

The statistics, Prof. Anarfi noted, explained that the country had failed to take advantage of the demographic dividend that portrayed the country as one with a youthful population. For this reason, some action and policy decisions must be taken to address the issue. “Efforts must, therefore, be intensified, not only to ensure good health and better education for the youth but also to create viable economic conditions for jobs to thrive in an atmosphere of good governance,” he appealed.

Voluntary Return

As many Ghanaian youth are leaving the country, others who left earlier are also returning. Just like Kofi, Ruth, Suleiman, and Pious over 3,500 Ghanaians have voluntarily returned home since 2017. According to data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Ghana, these re­turnees comprise over 3,200 males, women, and children, with the majority falling within the age range of 18 to 30 years. They returned from more than 30 European and African countries, including Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Morocco, and Algeria.

Facilitated under the European Union (EU)-IOM Joint Initiative (JI) for Migrant Protection and Reintegration Programme, these returnees often face diverse challenges, from unfulfilled dreams to conflicts, leaving a lasting impact on their mental and emotional well-being.

A Reintegration Assistant at IOM Ghana, Victoria Adomako, says regions like Bono, Bono East, Ashanti, Greater Accra, and others have witnessed significant influxes of returnees while the returnees often reached out to IOM due to unmet aspira­tions, conflicts, and other fac­tors, resulting in diverse impacts such as trauma and regret.

She said the challenges faced by returnees upon arrival included mental health issues but IOM’s comprehensive initiatives encompass pre-departure counselling, economic, social, and psychosocial support.

An IOM Ghana Reintegration and Community Outreach Assis­tant, Collins Yeboah, said, “Mi­gration will not stop but use the safe and regular means. Some agencies are offering juicy offers. Always verify from the labour department before em­barking on the trips.”

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