A new horizon for young refugee from Somalia

After five years alone and far from home, Balqees was thrilled to be graduating high school and now looks forward to being reunified with her family.

A dream came true for Balqees when she graduated high school.
© UNHCR/Cyprus


Yesterday a dream came true for 20 year old Balqees from Somalia when she graduated from the Technical School of Larnaca. “Today a dream I’ve always had has become a reality. You may wonder how a high-school graduation can be a dream come true, but for me it is – this would have not have been possible in my country. After going through so many challenges, it is not a small thing to finish school and go on to University studies.” Her classmates cheered as she went on and thanked her school director for giving her the opportunity to attend school, and her teachers who have always given her the support she needed. She thanked her cousins who travelled from London for the occasion. “I came to Cyprus alone, but I found siblings and family here in my school. No-one in my school ever made me feel excluded because I have a different religion or traditions. We are all different, but we are all equal,” Balqees said.

Balqees lost contact with her family amid the conflict in Somalia, and was forced to flee for safety. Arriving in Cyprus five years ago at the age of 15, she was alone, far from her family, and knew nothing about Cyprus, its culture, language or geography. As an unaccompanied and separated child, she was housed at the shelter in Larnaca with other asylum-seeking children. She began going to afternoon classes and learning Greek, but often spent time during class wondering about her family. She thought she would never see her mother and siblings again.

Once her asylum claim was approved, a new horizon opened up for Balqees. As a recognized refugee she could apply for family reunification and started to build a picture of a future for herself, one where she would be able to see her mother and siblings and live together with them again. Since the age of 15, Balqees spent years feeling alone, agonizing and waiting to be able to travel and hoping she would one day be reunited with her family. With her family reunification application approved she’s now looking forward to the moment her mother and siblings will join her in Cyprus.

Gaining recognized refugee status also meant that Balqees could plan her own life-path that had been on hold. With the knowledge that she would remain in Cyprus, and the relief that she would see her family again, she was able to focus on school. With the support of her school community she was able to overcome the challenges before her, and achieved her dream of graduating.

Balqees is now hoping to continue with university studies, and one day become a social worker.