The international refugee crisis is something that I knew very little about up until the last year. American news touches only briefly (if at all) on many of these tumultuous countries that refugees are fleeing from. And even more rarely do we hear stories about the camps themselves. That's why well written books on the subject are such an invaluable gift.
On this blog, we're going to regularly publish reviews of books worth reading if you have any interest at all in refugee issues. The first one is Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Morehead.
The author spent several years investigating the plight of refugees, focusing on what happens to them once they reach a "safe" country. In the worst case scenario, they've entered a country illegally and are desperately trying to evade repatriation by authorities. Because they have no recognized status, they're often denied education and economic opportunity. I hadn't realized how hopeless the plight is for refugees caught in this type of situation. Trying to immigrate to a welcoming country is close to impossible because of their lack of papers. But if they return home, they often face imprisonment or torture for trying to escape.
In the best of circumstances, those seeking asylum find a welcoming host community and plenty of resources to help them establish new lives. Yet they still struggle with culture shock, language barriers and a lack of education and/or skills that hinder their ability to get a good job. They also struggle with severe post traumatic stress and grief. Depression and suicide are not uncommon.
Caroline Morehead did an amazing job taking a "big picture" look at the refugee problem, yet still connecting you personally with the men, women and children who are at the heart of the issue. As an introductory text to refugee issues, I would highly recommend Human Cargo.