Learn more about refugees through this selection of books.



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 asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus, what asylum seekers, 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 asylum seekers 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.

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 asylum seekers 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.

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 asylum seekers 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)

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 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 asylum seekers 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 asylum seekers and refugees (to purchase, email Laura at Finch Publishing on info@finch.com.au).

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006)

Dave Eggers

This is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan who flees from his village in the mid-1980s and becomes one of the so-called Lost Boys. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback) the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. Eventually Deng is resettled in the United States with almost 4000 other young Sudanese men, and a very different struggle begins.

Freeing Ali: The Human Face of the Pacific Solution (2005)

Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon was the first journalist to gain unrestricted access to the refugee detention centre on Nauru. Freeing Ali tells of detainee Ali Mallaie, and follows his story from Afghanistan to Nauru, and ultimately to Melbourne. He recounts the experiences of survivors of the SIEV X tragedy and the ‘children overboard’ saga. At a time when the Australian government was under growing pressure for a change in policy, Gordon assesses the human and financial cost of the former Pacific Solution.

Dark Victory (2004)

David Marr and Marian Wilkinson

From two of the country’s most accomplished investigative journalists, this book offers an inside account of the Tampa affair and the political campaigning that powered the ensuing crisis.

Child Soldier (2004)

China Keitetsi

This is a powerful true story of Keitetsi, a child soldier who joined the Ugandan National Resistance Army at just eight years old. Her story details the abuse she suffered at the hands of her officers and how she finally escaped to Europe to start a new life. Now living in Denmark, she is an international campaigner on child soldiers.

Tampering with Asylum: A Universal Humanitarian Problem (2003)

Frank Brennan

Frank Brennan wrote this book in response to the 2001 Tampa Affair, when the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, and its cargo of rescued asylum seekers, were denied permission to dock at the nearest landfall of Christmas Island. The book compares Australia’s dramatic over-reaction with the response of the United States and Europe, and offers a practical blueprint for countries wanting to humanely protect asylum seekers.

Asylum: Voices Behind the Razor Wire (2003)

Heather Tyler

This is a collection of first-hand accounts describing what has driven asylum seekers to flee their homelands to come to Australia seeking refuge, and detailing the traumas involved both in flight from their homes and in detention on Australian shores. Tyler also looks at Australia’s perception of asylum seekers and media portrayals.

Borderline: Australia’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (2002)

Peter Mares

Written at a time when the arrival of ‘boat people on the Australian coast was re-igniting fears of a massive influx of refugees and asylum seekers, Peter Mares examines the legal, moral, and political questions posed by Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.


Dark Moments (2016)

A. S. Napoli

Sometimes the healing only begins when you come across others in worse situations than your own. US war correspondent Chuck Jennings suffers from burnout and depression. He has reached his breaking point. It takes a chance meeting with a stranger to coax him back to life. Fate intervenes to unite their troubled souls, but are they really kindred spirits? They find out as they wade through the detritus of the illegal Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. There, they discover the healing process begins when they battle their demons by getting in touch with their emotions.

Black Rock White City (2016)

A.S. Patric

Black Rock White City is an essential story of Australia’s suburbs now, of displacement and immediate threat, and the unexpected responses of two refugees as they try to reclaim their dreams. It is a breathtaking roar of energy that explores the immigrant experience with ferocity, beauty and humor.

Good Muslim Boy (2015)

Osamah Sami

Meet Osamah Sami: a schemer, a dreamer and a madcap antihero of spectacular proportions whose terrible life choices keep leading to cataclysmic consequences … despite his best laid plans to be a Good Muslim Boy. This book is a hilarious and heartbreaking memoir of loss, love and family. It’s about what we’ll do to live up to expectations – and what we must do to live with ourselves.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007)

Khaled Hosseini

Set against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban, this novel follows the intersecting stories of two Afghan women. It provides an insight into the lives of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.

Under the Persimmon Tree (2005)

Suzanne Fisher-Staples

This widely acclaimed novel explores the relationship between a young American woman and an Afghan girl, Najmah, who is all alone in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The story follows Najmah’s perilous journey through the mountains in search for safety and refuge in Pakistan.

The Kite Runner (2003)

Khaled Hosseini

This novel tells the story of the friendship between Amir, the son of a wealthy Pashtun merchant, and Hassan, the son of a Hazara servant. It follows the flight of Amir’s family from Afghanistan in the wake of the Soviet invasion and the persecution of Hazaras under the Taliban.

Children/ Young Adults

The Journey of Halima (2016)

The ‘Mermix’ non profit theatre company based in Greece has created a fairytale titled ‘The Journey of Halima’, based on Syrian folk tales, in order to keep refugee children company during their own journey from the war zone they escaped to their destination countries, and to sensitize all children to the problems refugees face. Published  as a trilingual book (Arabic – Farsi – English), it will be distributed free of charge to refugee children. Apart from the printed version, a digital version of the fairytale will be available free of charge, translated into several languages at  www.thejourneyofhalima.com.

Refugee Boy (2015)

Benjamin Zephaniah

A novel for young adults about the complex issue of refugees. Alem is on holiday with his father for a few days in London. He has never been out of Ethiopia before and is very excited. They have a great few days together until one morning when Alem wakes up in the bed and breakfast they are staying at to find the unthinkable. His father has left him. It is only when the owner of the bed and breakfast hands him a letter that Alem is given an explanation. Alem’s father admits that because of the political problems in Ethiopia both he and Alem’s mother felt Alem would be safer in London – even though it is breaking their hearts to do this. Alem is now on his own, in the hands of the social services and the Refugee Council. He lives from letter to letter, waiting to hear from his father, and in particular about his mother, who has now gone missing…A powerful, gripping new novel from the popular Benjamin Zephaniah

Christophe’s Story (2006)

Nicki Cornwell

This book tells the story of eight-year old Christophe who flees the fighting in Rwanda to come to England as a refugee with his family. It is about his difficulty settling in to his new home and also about the notion of telling stories and awareness-raising.

Walk in My Shoes (2004)

Alwyn Evans

Aimed at secondary students, this book tells of an Afghan refugee, Gulnessa, who struggles to establish a life for herself and her family in Australia. They are confined in a detention centre for asylum seekers, and forced to prove their refugee status.

Girl Underground (2004)

Morris Gleitzman

This novel tells the story of Bridget and Menzies, who devise a daring plan to rescue two kids, Jamal and Bibi, from a desert detention centre.

Soraya the Storyteller (2004)

Rosanne Hawke

Aimed at upper primary students, this story tells of 11 year old Soraya. Soraya is an asylum seeker from Afghanistan living under the shadow of Australia’s former temporary protection visa system. As she adapts to life in Australia, she is haunted by both her father’s absence and the fear that she may have to return to Afghanistan. To console herself, she begins writing stories.

Home is a Place Called Nowhere (2002)

Leon Rosselson

Suitable for teenagers, this topical, fast-paced novel deals with issues of discrimination and prejudice against refugees. Amina runs away to London after a crisis in her adoptive family, hoping to track down her mother and to discover the truth about her apparent abandonment. Paul, an older and more streetwise runaway, helps her to make contact with the refugee community. It is by listening to other people and their stories that she comes, finally, to understand her own.

For Every Child (2000)

Adapted by Caroline Castle

For Every Child is picture book which details the 15 most important rights of the child. Each right has a specific illustration in a different style by a different artist around the world. This could lead to a discussion about why people may have to flee from their own country.