quotations about refugees

Refugee quote

To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory.



no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.



No one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.



We came here to find refuge
They called us refugees
So we hid ourselves in their language
until we sounded just like them.
Changed the way we dressed
to look just like them
Made this our home
until we lived just like them.

J.J. BOLA, "Refuge"


In countries where people have to flee their homes because of persecution and violence, political solutions must be found, peace and tolerance restored, so that refugees can return home. In my experience, going home is the deepest wish of most refugees.

ANGELINA JOLIE, interview, BBC News, April 8, 2004


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Refugees are not terrorists. They are often the first victims of terrorism.



Refugees are neither seen nor heard, but they are everywhere. They are witnesses to the most awful things that people can do to each other, and they become storytellers simply by existing. Refugees embody misery and suffering, and they force us to confront terrible chaos and evil.

ARTHUR C. HELTON, The Price of Indifference: Refugees and Humanitarian Action in the New Century


Seeking asylum is a human right.



If we lived in a just world, all nations would protect their citizens' human rights. But that's not our world. Refugees are just one result of injustice. Crucially, they didn't cause their plight; rather, they are victims of profound injustice. Because their home nation cannot or will not protect even their basic human rights, they must migrate in search of protection. They are entitled to this protection, as all of us are, simply by virtue of being human.

PATTI TAMARA LENARD, "Who should pay for the refugees? Here are five possible answers.", Washington Post, February 8, 2016


The refugee crisis is a direct result of both colonialism and in the modern era, neo-colonialism, the more sophisticated incarnation of modern capitalism, implementing its own barbarism under the perverse justification of 'humanitarian' intervention. In other words, as Europe's thinking goes, "It's not enough that we used to occupy and colonize you, you clearly remain incapable of governing yourselves, and so therefore, it is our job to come and do it for you, and to democratize you in the form of bombs and McDonalds. When you come to our shores fleeing our bombs, we will do anything and everything to avoid blaming those who should be blamed including politicians, the wars they advocate, and the consumerism we worship." It is this psychology, or psychological deficiency depending on your view, which underpins the origin of the refugee crisis, and also which now, rather than seeking to diagnose it, will do anything to explain away what is happening--except of course look at the actual cause.

RICHARD SUDAN, "Gangs, populism, and conspiracy theory overshadow West's role in refugee crisis", RT, February 2, 2016


It is useless to describe to you the fear, the crying, the smell of death surrounding us until we left that day. Useless to describe how many people in my family, how many friends perished in that very city we all called home. Useless to describe that until we arrived in Lisbon all of three us, even me at six, did not believe we had made it alive. Useless to say that even after all of it was over, the sound of Guy Fawkes fireworks still threw me into a frenzied state locked in my undergraduate accommodation crying.

YOVANKA PAQUETE PERDIGAO, "Do a Little More: A Black Woman Reflects on Global Crisis", For Harriet


An a park bench in the evening, where the heat dissipates
and a breeze blows from the sea opposite,
sit lonely women and lonely men--
between this world and the other world, this world and the other.

Between this world and the other world--women and men.
An old man said: "The hope is getting smaller,
and the greater the problems--the fewer the visas.
Have you lived a life--and where is it, where is it?"

MORRIS FAIERSTEIN, "Visa to the Abyss: A Refugee Poem from the Island of Cuba", Poems of the Holocaust and Poems of Faith


The exile is a singular, whereas refugees tend to be thought of in the mass ... What is implied in these nuances of social standing is the respect we pay to choice. The exile appears to have made a decision, while the refugee is the very image of helplessness.

MARY MCCARTHY, Occasional Prose


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The old model of help for refugees, which is that you've got short term social service and that came from the international community and when the war was over you went home, that's broken down because the average refugee is out of their own country for 17 years.

DAVID MILIBAND, "Global refugee crisis is here to stay, says humanitarian chief David Miliband", Reuters, January 19, 2016


I'm here in this place that should be Heaven on Earth: on the island of Lesvos, Greece. You can see turkey in the distance. Gorgeous hills. Quaint villages. Mighty coastlines. But as we drove along the coastline to get to the North of Lesvo, we could see that the beaches were all littered with rubber boats and life jackets. It's haunting. and yet so easy to ignore as just trash if I didn't know the refugees' stories. If I hadn't hugged them and seen their smiles. If I hadn't seen the desperation in their eyes. If I haven't heard the stories of what they when through to get this far from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and more.

ANITA WING LEE, "When Did We forget? How the Refugee Crisis is Revealing Our True Capacity as Humans", Huffington Post, February 5, 2016


I want to lay down, but these countries are like uncles who touch you when you're young and asleep. Look at all these borders foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate.... I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.

WARSAN SHIRE, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth


I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing. I am the sin of memory and the absence of memory. I watch the news and my mouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, the people at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officers, the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones, the English classes at night, the distance I am from home.

WARSAN SHIRE, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth


Every morning, when people are getting up in the tent, the babies are crying, people are pushing each other at the taps outside and some children are already pulling the crusts of porridge off the pots we ate from last night, my first-born brother and I clean our shoes. Our grandmother makes us sit on our mats with our legs straight out so she can look carefully at our shoes to make sure we have done it properly. No other children in the tent have real school shoes. When we three look at them it's as if we are in a real house again, with no war, no away.

NADINE GORDIMER, The Ultimate Safari


Refugee road! Refugee road!
Where do I go from here?
Walking down refugee road.
Must I beg? Must I steal?
Must I lie? Must I kneel?
Or driven like dumb war-weary sheep,
Must we wander the high road and weep?
Or will the world listen to my appeal?

LANGSTON HUGHES, "Song of the Refugee Road", Collected Poems


No Madonna and Child could touch
Her tenderness for a son
She soon would have to forget....
The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea,
Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs
And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps
Behind blown-empty bellies. Other mothers there
Had long ceased to care, but not this one:
She held a ghost-smile between her teeth,
And in her eyes the memory
Of a mother's pride...

CHINUA ACHEBE, "A Mother in a Refugee Camp", Collected Poems


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