Image of Rohingya Refugees by the UNHCR

“Refugee Plight Worldwide”

I was merely planning to write a brief review for Refugee 87 by Ele Fountain. The novel struck me, deeply, because of the protagonist’s harrowing narrative of how he was forced to flee Somalia and seek asylum elsewhere. Yet, the book left me strangely wanting. I simply had to know more about real-life accounts that detail the same, terrifying plight.

Image of Rohingya Refugees by the UNHCR
Photo Credits: The New York Times

Alarming Mentions In Current Events

Television, radio, and internet portals are teeming with news reports that alarmingly mention ever-increasing number of refugees who cross international borders and attempt to move into various countries without proper documentation.

I also read and hear of illegal migrants who enter foreign lands, specifically first-world nations, through apocryphal means, and then prefer to remain there, despite the risk of being identified, imprisoned, and repatriated, ungracefully.


Photo Credits: AsiaNews
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Refugee Versus Non-Refugees

However, there’s that need to clearly differentiate a refugee from a non-refugee first. The UNCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) defines the term, “refugee,” as someone who has “…fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country” while a non-refugee is, of course, the opposite.

Nonetheless, from my derived allusions, a lot of non-refugees who opt to cross borders, illegally, have equally pressing reasons to do so. Most of them choose greener pastures, so to speak, in order to escape persistent poverty and consistent unemployment in their native countries.


Photo Credits: Melbourne Social Equity Institute
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Abuse And Disregard

Naturally, people who belong in both categories–refugee and non-refugee–are all desperate to find better opportunities in foreign lands rather than be deported back to their homelands.

Thus, they choose to work in underpaid jobs, make do with unimaginable abuse, and be treated as second-class citizens. Because most of them are unlisted aliens, they aren’t protected by the laws and regulations of the countries they go to. Thereby, they are more prone to reprehensible injustices that go undetected–or worse, tacitly condoned–by the authorities.

Made more curious by the hero’s plight in Refugee 87, I begun searching for similar fiction and nonfiction books that’d give me a clearer picture of this worldwide issue.


Photo Credits: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
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The Reason They Flee

Eventually, I came upon several write-ups that all spoke of similar nerve-wracking journeys carried out by people who had no other option but to leave their homes in order to escape unjust persecution, poverty, and imminent death.

Through these outstanding pieces, I was endowed with a deeper comprehension of why droves of people all around the world choose to seek safe haven abroad despite an acknowledgement of the multitudinous dangers accompanying such endeavors.


Photo Credits: Boston Herald
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10 Books To Read

Thus, below is a list of 10 remarkable novels that kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. Included are brief synopses and reviews, as well.


1. Refugee 87

Author: Ele Fountain
Copyright Β© 2018
Type: Fiction

KD Rating:
7 Out of 10 Stars
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A book about a young boy, Shif, who is forced to leave his mother and baby sister in order to flee the imminent threat of military abduction and inconceivable torture. Based on real-life events, the novel speaks of a boy’s persistent courage and a mother’s love for her child in a tenuous environment where trust is, indeed, a rare commodity.

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2. Journey Of A Thousand Storms

Author: Kooshsyar Karimi
Copyright Β© 2016
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

8 Out Of 10 Stars
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A prose that details Karimi’s journey as he escapes horrendous repression and savage persecution in Iran. Together with his wife and two daughters, Karimi crosses the border into Turkey where he and his young family attempt to seek sanctuary in a third country while compelled to survive the dangers and hardships of being refugees-on-the-run.

Finally achieving asylum status in Australia, the tale continues as Karimi trudges on to acquire medical license in the said country.

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3. Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Life Of A Desert Nomad

Author: Waris Dirie
Copyright Β© 1998
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

5 Out Of 10 Stars
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A story about a young girl, birthed into a nomadic tribe in the Somalian desert, who flees from the traditional, arranged marriage planned for her. Successfully reaching Mogadishu, she stays with relatives until a rare opportunity to work in London comes up. Waris, then, begs to be bestowed the said “servant” job.

Hence, unfolds a daring adventure for a beautiful nomad who, later on, becomes a top international fashion model and also, a staunch promoter for the eradication of FGM or Feminine Genital Mutilation.

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4. The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story Of War And What Comes After

Author: Clemantine Wamariya
and Elizabeth Weil
Copyright Β© 2018
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

6 Out of 10 Stars
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A heartrending story of loss, persistence, hope, and survival, the narrative speaks of how Wamariya and her sister embarks on a long-winding journey towards safety.

Brought up in a middle class home where familial love, bounty, and security were unquestioned staples each day, both sisters are forced to leave as Rwanda gets torn apart by tribal warfare and uncertainty.

Compelled to wander through varied African nations, the siblings get exposed to parlous conditions for years. Finally granted asylum by the United States, Clemantine and Claire take the abyssal leap into eventual freedom, healing, and sanctuary.

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5. The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey Of Escape To A New Life In Britain

Author: Gulwali Passarlay
with Nadene Ghouri
Copyright Β© 2015
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

8 Out of 10 Stars
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A fearless tale of adventure filled with nonstop action, multicultural reference, and persistent determination, the book is about Gulwali and his escape route towards yearned-for asylum in Britain. The story chronicles his former life in Afghanistan, the advent of war, and the preceding events that ultimately led to his mother’s decision to sign him and his brother off to a perilous journey sans any echt surety of survival.

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6. The Only Road

Author: Alexandra Diaz
Copyright Β© 2016
Type: Fiction

KD Rating:

7 Out of 10 Stars
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A story of a 12-year-old lad, Jaime, who is forced to flee Guatemala, the tale chronicles a lethal journey of border crossing, adventure, bravery, kindness, and persistence.

Forced to abandon everything that is familiar, Jaime escapes the daily threat of drug trafficking and widespread acts of agression caused by the Alphas. Accompanied by his cousin, Γ€ngela, Jaime must reach New Mexico in order to live with his older brother.

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7. The Coyote’s Bicycle

Author: Kimball Taylor
Copyright Β© 2016
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

7 Out of 10 Stars
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Countless bicycles are found discarded all over the place nearest the fence that separates the United States from Mexico. Day in and day out, locals discover bicycles left beside roads, beneath stacks of leaves, or along the riverside.

The book, then, is a comprehensive narrative on these bicycles, their important role in illegal border crossing strategies, and the convoluted distance that forcibly distances el Norte from the south.

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8. Mayada: Daughter Of Iraq

Author: Jean Sasson
Copyright Β© 2003
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

9 Out of 10 Stars
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Mayada’s story is but one of the numerous novels that chronicle the reasons why people flee their native lands. A woman belonging to the alta sociedad of Iraq, her painful tale enumerates the varied injustices that ill-exempts no one from being incarcerated, tortured, and killed in order to preserve the all-encompassing greed and power of some.

One of the best books ever written, in my opinion, Mayada gives readers a coup d’oeil of what happens behind the iron curtains of repression, avarice, and all-out malevolence.

Along with this novel, it may also help to read the 2007 Sasson masterwork, “Love In A Torn Land,” subtitled “Joanna of Kurdistan: The True Story Of A Freedom Fighter’s Escape From Iraqi Vengeance”.

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9. We Need New Names

Author: NoViolet Bulawayo
Copyright Β© 2013
Type: Fiction

KD Rating:

6 Out of 10 Stars
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Birthed in a country where violence ultimately evolves into a constant menace, Darling must leave Zimbabwe to live with an aunt in the United States.

A raw and enthralling tale told in the voice of a 10-year-old child, We Need New Names gives readers a glimpse of an idyllic existence of guavas, childhood friendships, and innocent dreams as well as of the acheful discovery that life as a migrant, isn’t really a breeze.

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10. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier

Author: Ishmael Beah
Copyright Β© 2007
Type: Nonfiction

KD Rating:

8 Out of 10 Stars
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A gut-wrenching memoir of a boy who, with his friends and older brother, flees the tragic remains of his community, the book depicts a moving tale of bravery and determination amidst abject carnage.

From Sierra Leone, the group travels from village to village, forced to escape brutal conflict and forced recruitment into the RUF (Revolutionary United Front).

Expertly written with graphic descriptions of pain, the story forces readers to recognize the chaotic, useless consequences of violence while it also demands its audience to acknowledge the faint whispers of hope.

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That Burning Struggle To Survive

These are merely some of the top books, I’ve come across, in my hunt for veritable reference materials that enable deeper comprehension of the ongoing international struggle for a peaceful existence and the unfortunate upsurge of migrant phenomenon.

Note that most of these masterpieces were written years ago as I have yet to find newer ones. Most of these books speak of the perilous pilgrimages made in order to escape guaranteed death. Yet, I also included some that detail grievous examples of the atrocities that precede a painful exodus and the disparaging upheavals that follow successful asylum grant.

In truth, there are hundreds of other biographies and autobiographies published about similar, lugubrious hejiras. Amidst the relentless cloud of chaotic deracination, however, is that stalwart shadow of hope. Thus, the exalting resilience of humankind is persistently reiterated in every chef-d’oeuvre.


Photo Credits: Council of Europe
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A Wild, Wide World

As it happens, these opuses don’t only record the varied crippling conditions that coerce most to flee their homes, hand over their lives to unscrupulous smugglers, and hope for a sliver of mercy from the outside world. These inspiring stories also point out an ennobling call for decisive action towards better, humane treatment of migrants and a most blaring plea for more involvement in the universal campaign for nonviolence and equality.

While most are blessed with a relative assurance of safety, democracy, shelter, and sustenance, it becomes a most disturbing contention that a sizable number grapple with despicable circumstances. Hence, these cruelties not only subvert the general right to essential commodities but also negate the basic right to life.


Photo Credits: Katerina Ilievska
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A Call For Peaceful Coexistence

Sans the typical, disparaging meaning delegated to the label, “pacifist”, I’d like to think of myself as a regular disarmer who mainly believes in halcyon coexistence while maintaining an all-encompassing justice in the stalwart pursuit of the common good.

You see, life is purely sacred. Besides, this world’s too big and too transient for people to engage in cyclical warfares that produce more Herculean destruction over actual, sustainable chances for survival. So, without the intent to kvetch, I end this piece with a resounding petition for more compassion for everyone and, yes, world peace.


Photo Credits: The Hill Times

Have more books to add to the above list? Have similar experiences of border crossing, emigration, and asylum application? Share your thoughts. Contact us and join the resonating cry for peaceful coexistence.

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