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Stories of refugees

Whilst it is important to share figures about the number of displaced people who have suffered in terrible conditions, it can often be difficult to truly understand more beyond the high numbers. Discovering the human stories behind all the figures can help to remind us that the people we read about in the news are people with their own personalities and hopes, allowing us to learn more about the situation that refugees face.

Here’s a selection of things I’ve read/watched that I’ve enjoyed and found useful for improving my understanding of refugees and their lives:


In this memoir, Gulwali tells the story of how he fled from Afghanistan to the UK at the age of 12. He recounts his journey through eight countries, including Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece. For me, the most eye-opening part was reading about his time in Calais, so close to the UK, where he lived in shocking conditions while he tried to make it to the UK. Gulwali has since co-founded ‘My Bright Kite’ to empower young refugees and raise awareness about the challenges refugees and asylum seekers face once arriving to their host countries.

This book tells the story of Doaa, who flees the war in Syria, passing through Egypt to Europe. The book covers her time spent on a boat crossing the Mediterranean and Doaa’s efforts to look after the two children she meets on her journey.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo follows the story of Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra as they flee Syria for the UK. Readers follow them as they try to come to terms with what they have lost and to deal with the hardships they face on their journey.


For Sama is a documentary film, filmed by Waad al-Kateab during the Syrian civil war. The film follows Waad, her family and her community as they attempt to care for patients injured by war in a hospital in Aleppo. It covers their anguish as they have to decide whether to stay in Aleppo to look after the injured or escape to try to find safety for Waad’s baby Sama. For Sama won the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.


Stateless is a short series on Netflix set primarily in an Australian detention centre. One of the main characters is Ameer, who has fled from Afghanistan with his family and is trying to find a better life for them. The series is an eye-opening look into the conditions of a detention centre and also shows the internal conflicts staff faced. It is based on true events, although the characters are fictional.

If you enjoy these, there are plenty more books and films you can try:

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