World Refugee Day: Hope in the face of an uncertain future

Can you imagine having to leave your life behind in search of a safer and more promising one, not just for you, but mostly for your children? Can you imagine the courage it takes to rebuild it somewhere unknown, with an uncertain future? These are speculative questions for us, but for more than 65.6 million around the world, it is their reality- having been forced to flee from their countries for their survival.

Recent news regarding the rescue of the Aquarius vessel is proof that humanity is failing at facing one of its unresolved issues: to protect and help the refugees. 630 people from 31 nationalities have just been rescued in Libyan waters, a mission that saved their lives, but one that has also sealed their new fates after losing their homes, families and jobs.

Aware of the vulnerability of these persons, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), created in December 1950 by the UN General Assembly, directs and coordinates the international agenda in favor of refugees. Shortly after, the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol were created to provide legal protection for refugees and guarantees their right to asylum, to voluntarily return to their places of origin, or to resettle in another country.

The BBVA Microfinance Foundation, through its Panamanian institution, works with UNHCR and the Red Cross to make opportunities more accessible to entrepreneurs with refugee status. This helps them avail of microcredits and training so they can rebuild their lives through entrepreneurship, mitigating their vulnerability.

Silvana* and Laidy Garay are refugees who escaped from Colombia and Honduras respectively, to flee from violence and insecurity, and they found a new opportunity in Panama, not only for them, but also for their families.

Silvana was part of a group of teachers who gave classes to low-income people in rural areas, to prevent minors from turning into child soldiers. Neither the disappearance of her colleagues nor the bombs planted in the schoolrooms made her back out. However, after having escaped from an ambush by the Àguilas Negras gang, she had to leave the country.

In Laidy’s case, she applied for asylum when she decided to flee Honduras because of the lack of physical security that was rampant in the country. The first few months were tough: her first residence consisted of a one-room place with an unstable construction, but she was able to start a sewing shop there.

I’ve been advancing thanks to the work I’ve done, and with the loans facilitated by Microserfin”- Laidy Garay, female entrepreneur of the Foundation’s institution in Panama

Both entrepreneurs have lost everything except hope, which day by day inspires them to thrive and fight not only to survive, but also to progress.

According to UN, every minute, 24 persons leave their lives behind to flee from wars, persecution or terror. These are people who are given the status of displaced, stateless, asylum seekers… but they have two things in common: the bravery to escape danger and the need of help so they can start their new lives with dignity.

*Not her real name