World Refugee Day

Every year countries around the world recognise the plight of refugees and celebrate the contributions of diverse cultures by marking World Refugee Day on June 20. There are currently around 20 million refugees worldwide, half of which are under the age of 18, for more on the statistics check out The UN Refugee Agency. If you would like to know about the history of refugees in New Zealand, visit Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

If you would like to help refugees in New Zealand, consider assisting NZ Red Cross with refugee resettlement, or supporting ESOL courses with English Language Partners.

What is happening in Wellington?

refugee day

Here is a selection of books and DVDs to learn more about refugee experiences:

Syndetics book coverRefuge New Zealand: a nation’s response to refugees and asylum seekers
“Unlike people who choose to migrate in search of new opportunities, refugees are compelled to leave their homeland. Typically, they are escaping war and persecution because of their ethnicity, their religion or their political beliefs. Since 1840, New Zealand has given refuge to thousands of people from Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Refuge New Zealand examines New Zealand’s response to refugees and asylum seekers in an historical context.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe quiet war on asylum
“Why would a country that has never had a boatload of asylum arrivals in modern history suddenly legislate for mass detention? Treading across the refugee camps of Burma and Thailand, to Australia’s detention centres and back to New Zealand, Tracey Barnett looks hard at this controversial new policy. She speaks to asylum seekers, refugees, NGO workers and migrants – people on the move and on the ground. Their lives and stories reveal a reality more complex than the political rhetoric, and one that questions how fair and ethical New Zealand really is on the world stage today.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity of thorns: nine lives in the world’s largest refugee camp
“To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort. Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWriting for Raksmey: A Story of Cambodia (Investigating Power Series)
Writing for Raksmey tells of the lives of six families who fled the aftermath of the Cambodian killing fields, were held in a crowded refugee camp at the border of their country, and then sent back to a nation still at war. The past is not spoken about but the struggles are not over and the sons and daughters of those who once were refugees sense mystery in their legacy and know it is important to them. Joan Healy lived and worked with these refugees for many years. The saga of this quarter century is witness to both a determination to survive and human goodness that was never quenched.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis
“Europe is facing a wave of migration unmatched since the end of World War II – and no one has reported on this crisis in more depth or breadth than the Guardian ‘s migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley. Throughout 2015, Kingsley travelled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach the holy grail of Europe. This is Kingsley’s unparalleled account of who these voyagers are. It’s about why they keep coming, and how they do it. It’s about the smugglers who help them on their way, and the coastguards who rescue them at the other end. The volunteers that feed them, the hoteliers that house them, and the border guards trying to keep them out.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lightless sky: an Afghan refugee boy’s journey of escape to a new life in Britain
“The boy who fled Afghanistan and endured an terrifying journey at the hands of human traffickers across Europe is now a young man intent on changing the world. His story is a deeply harrowing and incredibly inspiring tale of our times.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom victims to suspects: Muslim women since 9/11
“The so-called War on Terror, in its many incarnations, has always been a war with gender at its heart. Once regarded as helpless victims waiting to be rescued, Muslim women are now widely regarded by both Muslim and non-Muslim disciplinarians as a potential threat to be kept under control. How did this shift in attitudes come about? Shakira Hussein explores the lives of women negotiating the hazards of the post-9/11 terrain, from volatile Afghan refugee camps and Pakistani weddings to Australian suburbia and campaigns to ‘ban the burqa’. Her unique perspective on feminism, multiculturalism, race and religion is one that we urgently need.” (Syndetics summary)

We are hereWe are here [electronic resource]
“Told through the bright and unflinching eyes of Cat Thao, a girl born in a refugee camp, We Are Here is a memoir that begins in 1975 with her family’s gripping exodus by foot out of post-war Vietnam – a dangerous journey, unimaginable to most, on which most perished. The escape of Cat Thao’s family from persecution traverses the horrific jungles of Khmer Rouge Cambodia and into the crowded refugee camps of Thailand. From which, finally, the Nguyens were allowed to board a Qantas plane to a freedom they wanted desperately. But the stark, contrasting suburban landscapes of Western Sydney, Australia were not the unalloyed blessing they’d imagined.” (Adapted from Borrowbox description)

Mary meets MohammadMary meets Mohammad [Documentary]
Mary meets Mohammad is a film that follows the arrival of Tasmania’s first asylum seeker detention centre through the eyes of local knitting club member Mary. Mary is a staunchily Christian pensioner, who is not welcoming of the 400 male asylum seekers, who have come mostly from Afghanistan. Mary unexpectedly finds herself in regular contact with Mohammad, a 26 year old Muslim Afghan Hazara man, after her knitting club donates woolen hats to the men inside the detention centre. Mary sheds many of her prior beliefs as her relationship with Mohammad deepens and she is reminded of their common humanity” (Container).

The Good LieThe good lie [Movie]
“They were known simply as ‘The Lost Boys’. Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan that began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3,600 lost boys and girls to America” (Container).

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day falls on June 20, a day to honour the courage, strength and resilience of more than 50 million people around the world. Aotearoa New Zealand has a long history of accepting refugees, starting with the Polish orphans during the Second World War. Imagine losing everything simply because of your race, ethnicity or beliefs.

Here is a selection of adult and children’s books we have in our collection, both fiction and non-fiction.

Syndetics book coverGive us this day : a memoir of family and exile / Helena Wiśniewska Brow.
“In June 1944, when 14-year-old Stefan Wisniewski stood by his mother’s dusty Tehran grave, he knew his world was about to change again, forever. Give Us This Day: A Memoir of Family and Exile explores the story of one of the 732 Polish child survivors of wartime Soviet deportation offered unlikely refuge in New Zealand. Seventy years later, and no closer to a longed-for Polish homecoming, Stefan’s New Zealand-born daughter revisits his past. What is the burden her father has carried all these years? And why is he unable–or unwilling–to let it go? With an aging father and the ghost of a namesake aunt as her guides, Helena Wisniewska Brow searches for meaning in the family lives shaped by exile: her father’s, her mother’s, and her own.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStefania’s dancing slippers / Jennifer Beck ; [illustrated by] Lindy Fisher.
“As a five-year-old in Poland, Stefania loved to dance, but war came and her father went away to fight. Then she and her mother were sent to work camps in Siberia. The two struggled through until they were released and allowed to travel south again. But now her mother is sick and Stefania must leave her. At the parting Stefania drops one of her precious dancing slippers. She holds on to her one remaining slipper as a link to home and her parents as she is finally sent to the other side of the world – NZ. At the age of twelve, Stefania finally hears news of her parents and there is a reunion but it’s not a totally happy ending. Her mother had returned to Poland and now that country is closed.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalking with a fragile heart : short stories and poems by young refugees in New Zealand / edited by Pauline Frances.
“WALKING WITH A FRAGILE HEART is the third book published by Refugee Trauma Recovery. It has seven young people, all former refugees originating from Afghanistan, Burma (Karen people), Ethiopia and Rwanda, sharing their stories not just about their journey to Aotearoa New Zealand, but also their experiences settling in NZ. A special and extra feature of the book is the addition of poems composed by the same writers. Dame Fiona Kidman has written the preface which states as follows: “All the stories and poems moved me deeply. I am glad that this written record now exists, and commend all who have contributed to it.”” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rose hotel : a memoir of secrets, loss, and love from Iran to America / Rahimeh Andalibian.
“Andalibian struggles to make sense of two brutal crimes: a rape, solved by her father, and a murder, of which her beloved oldest brother stands accused. She takes us first into her family’s tranquil, jasmine-scented days of prosperity in their luxury hotel in Mashhad, Iran. Their life is ruptured by the 1979 revolution as they flee: first to the safety of a mansion in Tehran, next to a squalid one-room flat in London, and finally to California, where they suffer a different kind of revolution. Struggling to adjust to a new host culture, they soon discover that although they escaped Iran, they are not free from their own lies and hidden truths. As the family comes to grips with their new home, the strength of their bonds are tested by love, loyalty, compassion, hate, pain, loss–and the will to survive. Heartbreaking and intimately told, this is a universal story of healing, rebirth after tragedy, and hard-won redemption” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverTeacup / Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley.
“Once there was a boy who had to leave home… and find another. In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket. In his teacup he held some earth from where he used to play. This is one boy’s story of leaving his homeland, surviving a long journey by sea… and finding a safe, new place to call home..” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA man of good hope / Jonny Steinberg.
“In January 1991, when civil war came to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, two-thirds of the city’s population fled. Among them was eight-year-old Asad Abdullahi. His mother murdered by a militia, his father somewhere in hiding, he was swept alone into the great wartime migration that scattered the Somali people throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the world. This … book tells Asad’s story, [from a childhood living in a bewildering number of places to an adulthood of financial and romantic success]”–Dust jacket flap.

Syndetics book coverA king in hiding : how a child refugee became a world chess champion / Fahim with Sophie Le Callennec and Xavier Parmentier ; translated from the French by Barbara Mellor.

Syndetics book coverHamid’s story … : a real-life account of his journey from Eritrea / created by Andy Glynne ; illustrated & designed by Tom Senior.
“This is the story of Hamid who was forced to flee with his mother from war-torn Eritrea. It is the story of how they arrived in the UK as refugees with no understanding of the language and culture, and how they rebuilt their lives. When Hamid starts school, it is difficult at first, but then he makes some friends and things start to get better. But the horrors of the war in Eritrea are never far from their thoughts as the family learn of the death of Hamid’s father.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat is the what : the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng : a novel / Dave Eggers.
“In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety — for a time. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.” (Syndetics summary)

How can you help empower people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their goals and contribute to their new home in Aotearoa, New Zealand?
If you would like to know how you can help a family who has lost everything to start again, visit the Red Cross website to find out more.

World Refugee Day – 20 June

Every year on June 20 the world honours the courage, resilience and strength of refugees. Global attention is focused on this day not only on the plight of refugees and causes of their exile, but also on their determination and contribution they make to their host communities.

What is happening in Wellington?

NZ Red Cross is once again holding the annual World Refugee Day Football Match and Cultural Fair at Newtown Park on Sunday, 23 June. The day will start at 11:00 AM and will include:

  • Football matches
  • Cultural performances
  • Ethnic food
  • And much more!

Imagine losing everything simply because of your race, ethnicity or beliefs. If you would like to know how you can help a family who has lost everything to start again, visit Refugee Services‘ website to find out more.

The following books have been written by refugee youth living in the Wellington region, and include short stories and poems. Journey with my Shadow is a collection of poetry by Samson Sahele, who is also the driving force behind the youth writing workshops.

Syndetics book coverEarthless trees : short stories by young refugees in New Zealand / [edited by Pauline Frances].
“This collection of short stories is dedicated to the courage of all refugees who live in New Zealand, for their suffering and displacement from their homeland. Created during a series of writing workshops for young refugees, these vibrant stories provide an insight into the lives of new New Zealanders – individuals and families who came to New Zealand seeking security and freedom. From an escape through mountains on an overloaded truck, to living through an explosion in urban Kabul, these stories touch on universal themes of survival, family and home.” (adapted from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeyond the dark journey : short stories and poems by young refugees in New Zealand / [edited by Pauline Frances].
“Beyond the dark journey is the eagerly anticipated follow up to Earthless Trees which was published in late 2008 and had record sales for a publication of its kind. Over 1,500 copies sold. Dame Fiona Kidman had this to say within the Preface she wrote for Earthless Trees: ‘Above all, these are well written, accessible stories set in a modern contemporary world’.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWalking with a fragile heart
(This is a new book, still on order, but click the link above to place a reserve)
“Refugee Trauma Recovery recently celebrated the completion of a third book written by young people from refugee backgrounds with a book launch. Walking with a Fragile Heart is a collection of short stories and poems written by seven young people from Malawi, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Burma and Ethiopia. The completion of the book followed a 20 week writing course that gave the young writers an opportunity to write about their life experiences as refugees” (Human Rights Commission website)

You can also listen to an interview on National Radio with two of the young people whose work is in this collection.

Syndetics book coverJourney with my shadow : a collection of poetry / Samson Sahele.
“Journey with my shadow is a collecton of poetry that exposes the reality of Africa: the human rights violations, the killings and abuses, and the harassment by dictators” (Library catalogue summary)

Today is World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day falls on June the 20th every year and honours the courage, resilience and strength of refugees.

The history of refugee resettlement in New Zealand formally began with the intake of 800 Polish people, predominantly orphaned children, during the Second World War in 1944. Since this time New Zealand has continued to receive a range of people from diverse cultures including Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East all of whom have added to the richness of Aotearoa.

We have a wide range of refugee-themed books available at Wellington City Libraries which provide insight into the plight and circumstances of refugees internationally:

Syndetics book coverThe happiest refugee : the extraordinary true story of a boy’s journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia’s best-loved comedians / Anh Do.
“The laugh-out-loud, reach-for-your-hanky story of one of Australia’s best-loved comedians. Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about. Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram.”

Syndetics book coverAcross many mountains : a Tibetan family’s epic journey from oppression to freedom / by Yangzom Brauen ; translated by Katy Derbyshire.
“Kunsang thought she would never leave Tibet. One of the country’s youngest Buddhist nuns, she married a monk, had two children, and lived in peace and prayer until the Chinese invasion in 1950 changed everything. Many stories lie hidden until the right person arrives to tell them. In rescuing the story of her now 90-year-old inspirational grandmother and mother, Yangzom Brauen gives us a book full of love, courage, and triumph.” (Library Catalogue)

Syndetics book coverBirds of clay / Aleksandra Lane.
“This … first collection (in English) mixes powerful lyrics, Serbian proverbs and literary experiments, and moves from the Balkan wars to New Zealand” (Publisher)

Syndetics book coverRefugee stories.
“These compelling stories – recounted by former refugees now living in New Zealand – provide a broad presentation of the refugee experience. They describe horrific events and situations, but also reflect the multifarious identities, cultures and strengths of each of the writers. The stories serve to remind us of the importance of humane and ethical behaviour in both our civic and personal lives. They also remind us of the resilience of the human spirit. Notably they teach us about survival, compassion, hope and optimism.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI shall not hate : a Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity / Izzeldin Abuelaish.I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity
“Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician and humanitarian whose daughters were killed by Israeli soldiers in 2009 during Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip, delivers a memoir that is by turns inspiring and heartbreaking, hopeful and horrifying” (Syndetics)

One of the many people with refugee backgrounds living in our community is Ukyaw Maung, a smiling man from Myanmar, who visits Newtown library every week with his class for reading support. You can read his story on our Community Stories page.