Refugee Council of Australia
Black and white photo of bookshop with bookshop owner

Books about refugees

Non-fiction books for adults

Between Before and After (2022)

Edita Mujkić

In 1992 Edita Mujkić fled war-torn Sarajevo with two young children. Her husband, Goran, stayed behind, trapped in the impenetrable siege. After five months in Split, Croatia, Edita and her children moved to Northern England. Many months went by while Goran’s every attempt to escape failed. Edita had to help him. But how? What could she do with her broken English, without money and contacts, and two children to look after by herself? This moving and compelling true story of courage, love and humanity is a reminder of the difference that the simplest acts of kindness make.

Offshore: Behind the wire on Manus and Nauru (2016)

Madeline Gleeson
This essential book provides a comprehensive and uncompromising overview of the first three years of offshore processing since it recommenced in 2012. It explains why offshore processing was re-established, what life is like for people seeking asylum and refugees on Nauru and Manus, what people seeking asylum, refugees and staff in the offshore detention centres have to say about what goes on there, and why the truth has been so hard to find.

What is a refugee (2016)

William Maley
With the arrival in Europe of over a million refugees and people seeking asylum in 2015, a sense of panic began to spread within the continent and beyond. What is a Refugee? puts these developments into historical context, injecting much-needed objectivity and nuance into contemporary debates over what is to be done. Refugees have been with us for a long time – although only after the Great War did refugee movements commence on a large scale – and are ultimately symptoms of the failure of the system of states to protect all who live within it.

The Optician of Lampedusa (2016)

By Emma Jane Kirby

More than 360 people died in the disaster off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy on October 3, 2013. Carmine Mena, the only optician on the island, and his seven friends managed to save 47 people (his boat was designed to hold ten people). Hundreds died. This is a poignant and unforgettable account that brings home the reality of an ongoing refugee crisis that has resulted in one of the most massive migrations in human history.

Cast Away: Stories of survival from Europe’s refugee crisis (2016)

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Riot police patrol the borders, bodies of drowned children wash up on holiday beaches, a humanitarian disaster unfolds in refugee settlements: this is the European Union today. But how did a bloc that was founded on the values of human rights and dignity for all reach this point? And what was driving more than a million desperate people to risk their lives on the Mediterranean in the hope of finding sanctuary? Charlotte McDonald-Gibson has spent years reporting on every aspect of Europe’s refugee crisis, and Cast Away offers a vivid glimpse into the personal dilemmas, pressures, choices and hopes that lie beneath the headlines.

Across the Seas – Australia’s Response to Refugees – A History (2015)

Klaus Neumann
In this eloquent and informative book, historian Klaus Neumann examines both government policy and public attitudes towards refugees and people seeking asylum since Federation. By exploring the ways in which politicians have approached asylum-seeker issues in the past, Neumann aims to inspire more creative thinking about current refugee and asylum-seeker policy.

More to the story: Conversations with refugees (2015)

By Rosemary Sayer
More to the Story had its genesis in unease with the negative, often politicised debate dehumanising refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. Over several years the author, based in Western Australia, conducted interviews with former refugees and people seeking asylum from Burma, Afghanistan and South Sudan and uncovered powerful, moving and incredibly personal stories.

Refugees: Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia’s Policies are Not (2014)

Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong
This book rejects spin and panic to provide a straightforward and balanced account of Australia’s asylum policies in light of international law. Written for a general audience, it explains who people seeking asylum and refugees are, what the law is, and what policies like offshore processing, mandatory detention, and turning back boats mean in practice. Using real-life examples, this book reminds us of the human impact of Australia’s policies

The People Smuggler (2012)

By Robin de Crespigny

At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this is one man’s epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.

The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir (2010)

By Anh Do

One of Australia’s best-loved comedians, Anh Do, depicts his incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story. In his memoir he tells of his family’s treacherous journey from war-torn Vietnam, surviving starvation and pirates in an overcrowded boat. He describes the pleasures and the pitfalls as he grew up in Australia as an outsider, and the struggles that his family faced. This heart-warming book captures Ahn’s gratitude for what he has, and his hope for the future.

The Pacific Solution (2010)

Susan Metcalfe
In The Pacific Solution, Susan Metcalfe asks how we can justify a policy that detained a total of 1,637 people seeking asylum in offshore camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, causing undeniable damage and trauma. She brings together accounts of her own visits to Nauru, extensive interviews conducted with refugees and advocates, media reports, long-distance correspondence and new research. By engaging with the stories of people who have survived the experience and who are now our neighbours, workmates and friends, she encourages us to go beyond the labels of ‘illegals’ and ‘queue jumpers’.

Little Daughter: A Memoir of Survival in Burma and the West (2009)

Zoya Phan and Damien Lewis
Zoya Phan was born to committed resistance fighters in the Karen State of Burma. Despite the civil conflict under the nation’s brutal military regime, Zoya’s early years were blissfully removed from the war. However, at the age of fourteen, Zoya’s childhood was shattered as the Burmese army attacked and her family was forced to flee. Zoya joined thousands of refugees hiding in the jungle, before she sought refuge across the border in a Thai refugee camp. With her enemies still pursuing her, in 2004 she fled to the UK and claimed asylum, where she now acts as the face for UK’s Burma Campaign.

Acting From the Heart: Australian Advocates for Asylum Seekers Tell Their Stories (2007)

Sarah Mares and Louise Newman (editors)
In this moving and inspiring collection of stories, poems and cartoons, fifty contributors describe how they became involved in supporting people seeking asylum and refugees (to purchase, email Laura at Finch Publishing on

Alek: Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel (2007)

By Alek Wek

Alek Wek grew up in the Sudan in the midst of the vicious civil war. Now, at age 28, she is one of the most sought-after supermodels in the world; as a model, refugee activist and businesswoman she is a worldwide inspiration. This remarkable real-life story sheds light on her journey from war-torn Sudan, her escape to London at the age of fourteen, all the way to new beginnings in New York. Alek’s memoir is a poignant and powerful story that gives an unforgettable insight into her rise to fame and her dedication to refocus the world’s attention on those she left behind in the Sudan.

Be a champion for refugee rights

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive active resources. We need you to show Australia cares about refugees.


  • Category

  • Topic