World Refugee Day

On June 20th the UN marks World Refugee Day around the world.

A refugee is someone who must flee their home, usually due to violent forces, and must live elsewhere as they cannot return home safely.

It can be hard to make your way in a new country, but these influential thinkers, artists, inventors and authors demonstrate the remarkable strength, imagination and ambition of refugees around the world.

Renowned authors who were refugees

Isabel Allende

When her uncle, the president of Chile, was overthrown in a military coup, Allende was forced to flee Chile. Despite not having a visa or job, she established herself in Venezuela as a prominent journalist and later a celebrated author with her debut novel, ‘The House of the Spirits’ (1982).

Read her novel ‘Inés of My Soul’

Joseph Conrad

Conrad was born in what is now the Ukraine, but due to his father’s radical political activism he was forced to move frequently. After a period as a seafarer which ultimately saw him gain British citizenship, Conrad began a literary career. He is now widely known for novels including ‘Lord Jim’ (1900) and ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1902).

Read ‘Heart of Darkness’ or listen to the audiobook

Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah bravely wrote about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and his later escape to New York City in his memoir, ‘A Long Way Gone’. Beah was helped by UNICEF to escape his violent surroundings, and has gone on to publish two novels.

Read ‘A Long Way Gone’

Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan but he and his family ended up having to seek political asylum in the U.S.A after the Soviet war in Afghanistan. While Hosseini describes finding the experience a culture shock at first, he then went on to write ‘The Kite Runner’ which featured on best-seller lists in numerous countries and was later made into a film and West End play.

Read ‘The Kite Runner’

Highly Influential people who were refugees

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is best known for his work with Steve Wozniak on the computer, and multi-billion dollar company, Apple. Few realise that Jobs was the son of Syrian migrants who were forced to give him up for adoption after having him out of wedlock.

Listen to the audiobook biography of Steve Jobs


Mathangi Arulpragasam, better known as popular British singer-songwriter and rapper, M.I.A. is originally from Sri Lanka, which she was forced to flee with her family as a child. They came to the UK as refugees where M.I.A grew up and soon discovered her musical abilities, going on to become a worldwide best-selling artist with hits like ‘Paper Planes.’

Sigmund Freud

Known to most as the ‘father of modern psychology’, Freud had to flee Austria when the Nazis began persecuting Jews in the 1930s. Freud settled in London, UK where he continued his pioneering work in psychoanalysis.

Learn more about psychoanalysis and Freud.

Learn more about the refugee crisis

Our partners at the RSA bring you this fascinating video where a panel of experts and commentators discuss what is to be done about the largest wave of mass-migration in Europe since WWII.

Feature Image Copyright Steve Jobs at iPad announcement 2010 CC Wired Photostream.