Empowering refugees in the Philippines

The Philippines has a long history of extending its kindness to successive waves of refugees fleeing persecution since the end of World War I, and it continues to uphold this humanitarian tradition to support the forcibly displaced today.

Yvette arrived in the Philippines a little over a year ago. She is originally from Cameroon, a beautiful and diverse country that is also rife with conflict. The fighting between opposing groups killed millions and displaced many more.

In the several villages, the men and women abandoned their homes when they first heard gunfire. Family members stood helpless as they watched their loved ones fall to bullets in their once peaceful towns. This is how Yvette’s husband lost his life in Cameroon. This incident led Yvette to become one of the millions around the world who fled their homes because of an ongoing catastrophe.

Worldwide, majority of the asylum seekers and refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and various parts of Africa. Each one of them, like Yvette, took on a dangerous journey in their search for survival. “I left because I was in danger,” she said.

 

A new hope

Out of the millions of refugees and asylum seekers, a small number arrive on Philippine shores in search of safety and protection. Based on statistics shared by the Department of Justice – Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (DOJ-RSPPU), the Philippines has provided asylum to an aggregate number of more than a thousand refugees and asylum seekers since 1998. Yvette is one of them.

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Yvette currently does not have a job but hopes that by learning how to use basic computer programs will assist her in finding employment. Back in Cameroon, she worked in a hospital as a nurse. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

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San Beda University provided computer literacy training for refugees last December 2019. SBU’s Community Engagement Center and Information Technology Department organized the session to support refugees in becoming self-reliant. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

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Rose Perreras, who heads SBU’s Information Technology Department, led the session, where refugees were taught Microsoft Excel basics. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

 

To supplement the protection provided to refugees by the Philippine Government, UNHCR works with various sectors of society, such as the academe. UNHCR Philippines has been an operational partner of San Beda University (SBU) since 2013. In December 2019, SBU’s Community Engagement Center and Information Technology Department organized computer literacy training for Yvette and other refugees.

De La Salle University (DLSU) is another UNHCR partner that recently offered English language training to a refugee, Sunshine. Like Yvette, Sunshine fled her home in West Africa because of conflict. In December 2019, she trained under DLSU’s Center for International English for Speakers of Other Languages, with a scholarship from the College of Education. Sunshine is fluent in French and hopes that the English language training will help her land a good job in the Philippines.

 

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Sunshine successfully completed an English language training course with a scholarship waiving tuition fees from De La Salle University. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

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Sunshine trained under DLSU’s Center for International English for Speakers of Other Languages with a scholarship offered by the College of Education. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

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Sunshine is fluent in French and hopes that learning the English language will open more opportunities for employment in the Philippines. © UNHCR/Althea Gonzales

 

Investing in refugees’ education is the most powerful way we can help them to be self-reliant. It is also central to the development of the places that have welcomed them, and to the future prosperity of their own countries once they can return.

 

A long history

Filipinos have a long history of extending its kindness to those who have been forced to flee from their home. This nation was among the first to spontaneously offer asylum to successive waves of refugees fleeing persecution since the end of World War I. The Philippines continues to uphold this humanitarian tradition as it continues to support the forcibly displaced like Yvette and Sunshine.

During the Global Refugee Forum held last December 2019, the Government of the Philippines expressed its continued commitment to build better futures for refugees and displaced persons.

“With the rest of the civilized world the Philippines shares its unwavering commitment to attain a world that respects the rights of every individual with or without a country because we are all citizens of humanity.”

– An excerpt from the statement of the Philippines, read by Department of Justice  Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (DOJ-RSPPU)
Protection Unit Officer-in-Charge Chief State Counsel Ruben F. Fondevilla

 

The world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with more than 70 million people fleeing from their homes due to conflict and violence, but it is through the support of our donors and partners like you that we are able to help refugees like Yvette and Sunshine build a better future in safety and in dignity.