Refugees, migrants, internally displaced people = all human beings. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: nobody flees their homeland with only what they can carry on their back unless they have to. It’s natural to seek out a safer, better place for our families. Those of us who have never been in a situation where we saw no other choice but to run shouldn’t be allowed to decide who is more “worthy” of safety, who “deserves” to be called refugee rather than migrant, whose story is more “important”. But we still do.
We Are Not Refugees is a necessary and very timely read: in these days where a president blanket bans all people from several countries from entering the US, and goes to great lengths to build a wall between the US and Mexico, where European countries are talking of migrant “crises” and closing borders rather than actually dealing with people as humans rather than numbers, we NEED to read these stories.
Agus Morales is a human rights journalist who has spent many years traveling to countries in conflict, talking to people who have been displaced because of war, conflict, genocide, hunger, and poverty. He wrote this book not just to highlight that there is not one “refugee” profile, but mainly to highlight the fact that these people are all human. The book is divided into 5 parts, covering areas such as the why’s, and the how’s and the where’s, and takes us to many different places, such as Sudan, the DRC, Syria, Central African Republic, Central America, Tibet, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
What happens when all you want is to go home, back to your life of before, but there is no possibility of “before” ever coming back, and/or of your home existing anymore?
There are many important stories in this book, some that will remain with me forever I think, and there are also some extremely important subjects that must be raised. Why are some people called refugees while others are called migrants? Why are different of groups of refugees highlighted when others languish in camps in the dark? Why do we still fear the “other” when the “other” is another human being just like us?
Agus Morales doesn’t hesitate to lay all of the stereotypes on the table in order to debunk them, and doesn’t whitewash the truth either. He tells the stories exactly how he sees them, and expertly mixes personal anecdotes, stories from people he encounters, and hard facts and truths together to create a compelling and heartbreaking read. I really appreciated the fact that he brought together people fleeing war, people displaced in their own countries with no possibility of returning to their homes, and those who have been exiled for one, two, even three generations to create an overview of what it means to be displaced, of what it means to be a refugee but not a refugee all over the world.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this book!