Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Books and Resources

Display of books with sign reading Refugee Week and text explaining Refugee Week taken from the Refugee Week website

The books and resources included in this list focus on refugees, asylum seekers, migration and related issues and are available in the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre Library or online. This is not an exhaustive list – there are many more books on these topics available in our library, and we regularly update our collection with new titles.

Books for children and young people (5-11)

Refugees & Migrants, Ceri Roberts

Through illustrations and text, this book helps children understand who refugees are and why they have left their homes, answering their questions and empowering them with ways they can help. Read this book for an overview of refugees, tailored to a young audience.

Christophe’s Story, Nicki Cornwell

This book focuses on a child getting acclimated to school in Britain from Rwanda, overcoming his resistance to tell his story. Read this for an account of past and present experiences for a child refugee in the UK.

Yusra Swims, Julie Abery

Yusra swims is a rhyming poem, detailing the journey of a Syrian-born Olympian swimmer, as she escapes war in search for safety. Read this book for a simple yet emotional biography of one woman’s triumph over adversity.

Books for children and young people (11-16)

Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord, Bessora (YAFIC/BES)

In this graphic novel Alpha begins his journey to France from the Ivory Coast, tackling exploitation and other dangerous situations, to reunite with family and friends. Read this to discover the journey a refugee makes, and the struggles faced along the way.

The Lightless Sky: my journey to safety as a child refugee, Gulwali Passarlay (IM.2/PAS)

In this biography, Passarlay details his 12-month journey to Europe, suffering brutality, hunger and cruelty, all before becoming a teenager. Read this for an inspiring story of how individuals risk their lives, to leave behind the troubles of their home country.

Refugee Boy, Benjamin Zephaniah

A young adult novel about Alem, a teenaged refugee from Ethiopia who finds himself alone in London. Read this for a gripping story that does not shy away from the prejudice faced by refugees.

Books about the history of refugeeism

What is a Refugee?, William Maley (IM.1/MAL)

This book offers a guide to the complex idea of ‘the refugee’ and sets current crises in the context of the wider history of human exile. Read this book for an introduction to the history of refugees and the issues that they face.

The Making of the Modern Refugee, Peter Gatrell (HI.7/GAT)

This book explores the causes, consequences and meanings of global population displacement during the 20th century. Read this for a comprehensive history of refugeeism in the modern world.

Cast Away: stories of survival from Europe’s refugee crisis, Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (IM.3/MCD)

In Cast Away the author follows the journeys of five real people fleeing war and persecution to try to reach safety in Europe. Read this book for insight into the real lives, hopes and struggles that lie behind the headlines and statistics.

Books about refugeeism and the climate crisis

Move: how mass migration will reshape the world, Khanna Parag (IM.1/KHA)

With billions of people expected to move within the next 30 years, global strategist Parag discusses the reasons and the implications of this, as we approach a climate crisis. Read this for a detailed analysis of climate change and migration.

The Next Great Migration: the story of movement on a changing planet, Sonia Shah (IM.1/SHA)

Shah connects the global movement of humans in response to climate upheaval with the migration of wild species and argues that while politicians and the media present this movement as unwelcome, migration and mixing are in fact essential to human survival. Read this book for an optimistic antidote to anti-migration rhetoric and misinformation.

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, Viet Thanh Nguyen

This book features a collection of essays, from refugee writers around the world, discussing displacement and the parallels between countries. Read this for a detailed view on refugee experiences around the world.

Books about the UK’s Hostile Environment

Hostile Environment: how immigrants became scapegoats,Maya Goodfellow

This book traces the history and politics of the UK’s racist and xenophobic immigration policy from the 1960s to the present day. Read for an analysis of the UK’s dehumanising immigration system, including interviews with those attempting to navigate the system.

Reluctant Refuge: the story of asylum in Britain, Edie Friedman and Reva Klein (IM.2.01/FRI)

A critical analysis of the dominant political narratives and overwhelmingly negative media portrayals of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, which serves to fuel public suspicion and animosity. Read for a detailed account of the history of anti-asylum rhetoric in the UK.

In the Shadow of Enoch Powell: race, locality and resistance, Shirin Hirsch (HI.1/HIR)

This book assesses the legacy of Enoch Powell and his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech on British attitudes to immigration and asylum. It argues that the idea of there being ‘too much’ or the ‘wrong sort’ of immigration has its roots in Powell’s ideas. Essential reading in understanding how and why post-colonial British identity is characterised by extreme insularity and xenophobia.

Fiction about refugees and asylum seekers

A Country of Refuge: an anthology of writing on asylum seekers, Lucy Popescu (AR.2.05/POP)

An anthology of short fiction, memoir, poetry and essays which explore what it really means to be a refugee. Read for powerful and thought-provoking pieces by established writers.

By The Sea, Abdulrazak Gurnah (FIC/GUR)

This novel, by a Nobel Prize winner, centres on Saleh Omar, who arrives at Gatwick Airport from Zanzibar, to seek asylum in the UK. Read this for a complex and literary depiction of the experience of displacement.

Websites & online resources

UNHCR: The United Nations Refugee Agency (

The UN Refugee Agency is a global organization dedicated to protecting and safeguarding refugees, displaced communities and stateless people. Their website includes easy to understand explanations of key issues and terminology, teaching resources, and up to date news stories.

Refugee History (

A website and interactive network with research and information on refugees and refugeeism. Includes blogs and articles, a short film, and some really useful interactive timelines: 400 Years of Refugee Movement to the UK, and the History of British Immigration Policy (1905 – 2016).

British Red Cross: Teaching Resources (

The British Red Cross website includes a number of free teaching resources and activities aimed at primary and secondary children, designed to help young people challenge assumptions and develop empathy and understanding around refugees and migration.