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Refugee Week books, films, music and podcasts

Every year during Refugee Week we pass on recommendations for ways you can learn more about the experiences of those who have to escape their countries and seek sanctuary. This year is no exception but we also have podcasts and music for you!

These links are to the Refugee Week website and below are brief reviews of just some of those we have read/seen or listened to:

Suggested books

‘Exit West’ is a book of fiction by Mohsin Hamid featuring a young couple who have to escape war. They join others leaving and eventually arrive in the UK. The book looks at the effect on relationships, the experience of being an ‘outsider’ and loss. It also features several ‘doors’ as portals to other places – a comment on whether migration today needs to be as difficult as it is.

‘The Lightless Sky’ by Gulwali Passarlay is a true account of a 12yr old escaping Afghanistan and finding himself at the mercy of traffickers and the Calais camp before he eventually arrives in the UK. Gulwali was one of the Olympic torch carriers in Burnley in 2012 –  there are many articles on his life easily found on the internet

‘The Ungrateful Refugee’ by Dina Nayeri again is a true account, this time of an escape  from Iran. Dina describes her own and others stories and examines what it is like to be unwanted and expected to be eternally grateful. I note this author has another book on the list – definitely on my reading list!

‘Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China’ by Jung Chang is the story of the author, her mother and grandmother living through the history of China where your fate turns on a pinhead. It shows how your pathway through life can be dictated by where and when you live rather than your own actions. Jung Chan now lives in the UK and I believe her books are banned in China.


The Swimmers: this 2022 film chronicles the life of two sisters escaping Syria. It tells of the journey but also of what happened to the sisters after their arrival in Germany, the fate of one still to be decided.

Limbo: a film of four men awaiting decisions on their asylum applications whilst living in a remote area of Scotland. The film whilst full of humour is also poignant and heart-breaking.

Flee: an animated telling of an Afghan man who escapes to Denmark, only to find himself  facing a secret he has been hiding most of his life.

Also, on BBC i-player – Storyville episode ‘Inside Kabul’ is a beautifully animated documentary based on voice notes between two young Afghan women during the first weeks the Taliban returned to power. One stays in Kabul whilst the other escapes to a refugee camp.


Here not only is there a Spotify playlist on the theme of compassion and the refugee experience but also a list of podcasts of which I personally enjoy ‘Asylum Speakers’.

Note the episode from Nadir Nahdi features one of the sisters from the ‘Swimmers’ film mentioned above. I couldn’t find this podcast episode but there are several U-tube interviews with Sara.

For further ideas, as if these aren’t enough – see previous Refugee Week posts!


Migrants by Issa Watanabe: beautifully illustrated picture book telling the journey of so many who seek asylum through the use of animals forced to leave their jungle.

Storyville –  Inside Kabul: animated true story of two friends, one who leaves and one who stays when the Taliban take over the city. See on BBC I-player