In the past few weeks following my book’s publication, I have been confronted with so much curiosity. Many people want to know the reasoning behind “Refuge-e”. “Why the dash?” they ask. “It sounds weird, you know,” friends admit in one on one conversations.

Here is the mystery.

We often look at the “RefugEE” and ignore the “RefugE.” The difference? Well, more than an “E,” the letter meant to distinguish, one has to do with a person, the other has to do with a condition, an institution, a country, etc. One needs the other. One is physical, perceivable and defined, whilst the other is often NOT physical, perceivable nor defined? Key word: Often.

The first part of my book’s title “Refuge-e” was inspired by two factors. An editorial comment from my publisher recommended including the word “refugee” in the title so that readers – or readers to be – can instantly tailor the book to its main themes. The other, however, goes much deeper than that.

In many parts of the world, refugees are dehumanized for all sorts of reasons, notably unfounded fear of the unknown. Refugees are perceived as less human, unlawful and individuals who threaten the society’s status quo. This directly translates into mistrust, institutional injustice, systematic discrimination and (mostly in the case of those who cross a sea or an ocean) racism. As a result, refugees lack acceptance and integration into the host communities, and in worst cases they are denied asylum and immigration services such refugee statuses, visas, study permits, etc

“. . . the term “refuge” shifts the narrative from the person fleeing and focuses on their needs and the destination to which they are fleeing – the host community!”

A “Refuge” – Mpaka Refugee Camp, eSwatini

This is the inspiration: It is very easy to judge a fellow humanbeing by just looking at them, without taking time to hear their story, their wants and their needs. We shouldn’t deny that some refugees do undesirable things. However, we should realize the ease to generalize a group of people based on the regretful actions of their in-group, without taking time to consider each person as an individual who has a singular – or multiple unique – story(ies). Why? We look at a refugee, and rightly so we see the person but overlook what really makes them the “refugee” – the need for a “refuge”. In the mainstream media, “refuge” is a term which we rarely encounter in reports about fleeing and the so-called “refugee crisis”. I personally think it is because the term “refuge” shifts the narrative from the person fleeing and focuses on their needs and the destination to which they are fleeing – the host community!

A refuge is often a place, different from the country or area of origin; in my case and many similar cases, it is a place to which people fleeing their homes are hoping to reconstruct their lives. It is often physical, perceivable but not always defined. As a local citizen, a member of the host community, you often help in defining this place, but not until you read the word “refuge” in the word “refugee”.

I hope the readers of “Refuge-e: The Journey Much Desired” can take a breath to think of “refuge” – before immersing into the moving and deeply inspiring story of a young “refugee”.

For further readings;

*The UNHCR implicitly contextualizes a refugee within the refuge.

*Examples of dehumanization of refugees