Accessibility statement

The book of refugees: a multilingual record of memories, dreams and aspirations of refugees in the UK

Woman staring at destroyed buildings


The experiences and aspirations of refugees living in the UK remain largely unknown to the communities that host them. Before and during their long journey to safety, refugees often experience traumas that may affect their physical and mental health long after the events. Being forced to flee, they have left so many precious things and dear ones behind. However, they come here with memories and stories.

Project aims

This project aims at creating a window through which we are given access to these memories and stories summed up in a few words. These can be words of wisdom, which refugees take as a way of life, poems they wrote, brief reflections on their experiences, as well as works of art like calligraphy and drawings. The main objective of this project is to create a bridge between refugees and the community in which they live and to fight racism and hate with knowledge, dialogue and understanding.

Call for stories

The project leaders are calling for contributions from refugees anywhere in the UK.

Contributions will be published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND). This licence allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Tell us your story

Stories in the Book of Refugees


  • Paul Wordsworth (Co-ordinator; York City of Sanctuary)

I am pleased to provide a foreword to this Book of refugees. During the 10 years in which I have worked as Co-ordinator of York City of Sanctuary I have come to know and count amongst my friends those people who arrived in the UK as asylum seekers. Many have been granted the right to remain in this country. Some have taken the next step and become UK citizens. It is a privilege for me to assist them along their journey, as they create new homes, start new careers and nurture their families in new environments.

I want to put this book in the context of the overall picture about refugees in our world right now. In 2022 the number of refugees in the World reached 100 million (United Nations figures.) 48% of that number remain displaced from their homes within their own country. 34% fled for safety to their immediate neighbouring countries. That means some of the world’s poorest nations now host between them the largest proportion of exiled refugees. 14% journeyed further afield, often to other continents, including Europe. Only 4% of all refugees are seeking asylum in the country where they are temporary residents.  

The causes of such numbers are war, the collapse of a nation’s civil society, persecution, natural disaster such as earthquake, drought, flood, famine, and destitution. The last four show a rapid increase across the world, caused in part by the effects of global warming. The poor have contributed the least to that effect, yet pay the highest price. 

Of refugees in Europe, only 8% sought sanctuary in the UK. The number claiming asylum in this country in 2022 (half the figure of claimants in 2002), represents 0.001% of the population of Great Britain. 

This Book of refugees reveals a clear story. Hear are the voices and words of people needing to leave their homes, cultures, languages, families, and all that was familiar to them, in order to find safety in a place completely alien and foreign to them. It was not a decision taken lightly. It was extremely costly and involved great loss. 

They have overcome pain, grief, stress, loss and trauma. That is a huge achievement. As refugees,they have contributed hugely to our own diverse culture and common life. They have brought and put to use their natural gifts, abilities and skills. We are enriched and blessed as a nation to be able to welcome and provide sanctuary to those who are now our neighbours and our friends. 

The book forms a record based on truth and real experiences. Introduce others to this authentic resource.

RAY for Book of Refugees

  • Carrie Wheater

Refugee Action York (RAY)’s vision is for all refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to be welcomed and fully accepted into local and regional communities, where they can feel safe and empowered to rebuild their lives. Refugee Action York was founded in 2002 after it was realised that there were a number of refugees from Turkey in York, and a small group of volunteers set up a weekly club in a local church hall where they could meet, share stories, and access information. From there, RAY grew in size and scope, eventually getting charity status in 2009. Since then RAY has supported people from Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq, Rwanda, Iran, Eritrea and many other countries, speaking a wide range of languages. RAY has supported them with learning English, finding jobs, navigating the benefits system, introduced them to new friends, and helped them to settle into their new communities. 

RAY is proud to be part of the welcome York offers those seeking sanctuary and is proud to have supported over 800 individuals during the past 20 years. As more people are pushed from their homes by conflicts, persecution, and the climate emergency, RAY provides a vital service to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. RAY is looking forward to working alongside partner organisations to welcome increasing numbers of new arrivals to our city, continuing to work in a way that is welcoming, empowering and responsive. 

Data Protection

You can choose to give your name with your contribution, or to remain anonymous. 

If you remain anonymous: we won’t have any personal data about you. You don’t need to read the rest of this section. 

If you give your name: we will publish your name with your contribution on the project website. 
If you change your mind about publishing your name, email and We can delete your contribution entirely, or just delete your name and keep an anonymous version of your contribution. 

We may publish some contributions in a book. If we plan to do this, we will email contributors who have provided their email address, so they know it will happen. We won’t be able to remove your name or contribution from the book once it has been published. 

Privacy law (the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018) requires us to have a legal reason to process your personal data (your name, and any personal details about you that are contained in your contribution). Our reason is that you have given your consent. 
Information about your health, ethnicity, sexual identity or other sensitive information is called “special category” data.  We have to have an additional legal reason to use this data, because it is sensitive.  If any special category data is included in your contribution, then our additional legal reason is that you have given explicit consent. 

For further information about how the University will use and protect your personal information, please see the University's General Privacy Notice.

If you have a story to share, please submit through our online form. Your experience could be shared as words of wisdom, which you as a refugee take as a way of life, poems you have written, brief reflections on your experiences, or as works of art such as calligraphy or drawings.

Project leaders and collaborators

Dr Ahmed Khaleel - Lecturer in Arabic, human rights activist, translator and poet, member of the board of trustees at York City of Sanctuary since 2017 and currently Chair of York City of Sanctuary.

Dr Lucia Aiello - Senior Lecturer in Italian, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, co-editor of the Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies.

Huw Jones - Technical Supervisor, Language &  Linguistic Science, University of York


Dr Ahmed Khaleel (Arabic)

Sameerah Mahmood (Kurdish)

Rohullah Esmati (Dari and Pashto)

Mustafe Tahir (Soomaali)

Dr Maryna Kapas-Romaniuk (Ukrainian)

Project partners

University of York Sanctuary 

York City of Sanctuary