What is displacement and why should I read about it?

We are big believers in the power of reading; it can provide escapism, inspire you and, most importantly, arm you with knowledge. That's why we have put together a list of our top 5 books, which include options for both adults and children, that will help you understand displacement, asylum and refugees.

Displacement is the involuntary or coerced movement of people away from their home. When people are displaced, they are forced to seek sanctuary in a new country by claiming asylum. If their claim is accepted, they are granted refugee status and the right to remain. 

Displacement is a huge global issue. Only by understanding it can we collectively tackle it. So, let's get reading!


1- What is a Refugee? by William Maley

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This is a fantastic book which helps you get to grips with complex ideas around the refugee crisis, exploring what makes a refugee. It follows the stories of families and individuals who have sought refuge, telling of the heart-wrenching suffering as they tackle their perilous journeys to safety. It’s incredibly thorough and will give you a really good understanding of both current and historical refugees, but it does so in a really easy-to-consume way, which makes it one of our favourites. 


2- Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami

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This book specifically addresses displacement due to the Syrian war. Delving into the causes and antecedents of the Syrian civil war, it explains what got us to where we are today and helps readers understand the context in which many Syrians were forced to flee their homes. 


3- Not My Worst Day by Alex Mvuka Ntung

Book cover of Not My Worst Day by Alex Mvuka Ntung

Despite having their homelands in the Congo, the Banyamulenge tribe had always been perceived as foreigners in their own country. Alex’s extraordinary tale explores the divisions he faced as a result of this, the horrors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the subsequent conflict to which he tragically lost eleven members of his family. In the face of all this, he maintained an unfaltering determination to publicise the plight of his people. A book that offers incredible insight into poverty, discrimination and conflict, as well as hope and persistence.


4- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai 

Book cover of Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai 

For younger readers (aged 8-12), this beautiful novel is the perfect introduction to displacement, exploring why refugees must flee their homes and the challenges they face when setting up a new life in a new country. Inspired by Thanhhà's own childhood experience as a refugee and told in verse, this story offers a touching child's-eye view of displacement.


5- King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

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To introduce ideas around displacement to children as young as four, why not read this wonderful picture book with them. As he starts his new life in a country unknown to him, a young refugee boy feels lost and alone until one day he meets an old man who keeps racing pigeons. A thoroughly thoughtful book which reminds us that home can be more than one place and that simple acts can make us feel part of a community.


And finally...

If you would rather listen than read, we recommend this episode of How to Fail with Bassel Deeb. Born in Syria and forced to flee because of the civil war, Bassel applied for asylum in the UK in 2013. He and Elizabeth Day discuss what it's like to be surrounded by a brutal conflict, to be forced to flee leaving those you love behind, and to redefine your idea of 'home'.