11 of This Year’s Most Memorable Refugee Stories

UN Refugee Agency
Dec 21, 2015 · 4 min read


Sixty-five million people have fled their homes to escape war or persecution—the most since World War II. Tens of thousands more follow every day, escaping violence in Syria as well as Burundi, Central African Republic, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen and beyond.

These staggering numbers encompass a multitude of unique individuals—displaced girls, boys, women and men surviving against great odds. The stories they shared with us in 2015 range from harrowing to hopeful, sometimes in the span of a few paragraphs. We invite you to explore the 11 standouts presented here, which show refugees across the world grappling with matters of life and death, of love and loss, of home and exile.

The Boy Who Was Buried Alive and Survived

When his village in Nigeria was attacked, 10-year-old Ibrahim witnessed his father’s brutal murder. Then the insurgents came after him.

The WhatsApp Wedding

Kept apart by war, two young Syrians fired up their smartphones and found love against the odds.

The Underground Siege

The shelling in Ukraine has driven 1,000 Donetsk residents underground. Afraid to venture outside, they still maintain a spirit of generosity.

Saving Lives at the River’s Edge

As wounded refugees cross the Oubangui to escape deadly attacks in the Central African Republic, humanitarians spring into action.

Abandoned at Sea

Smugglers cast 5,000 desperate souls adrift on the Andaman Sea. Survivors spoke to UNHCR about their terrifying ordeal.

Rescue on Lake Tanganyika

A 100-year-old ship ferries thousands of Burundians to safety. Meet the captain, three aid workers and a woman fleeing home for the fourth time.

A Hell Like No Other

Countless Yazidi women and girls have been abducted in recent months. Three survivors speak of the horror that haunts them still.

Humans of Lesvos

Street photographer Brandon Stanton takes ‘Humans of New York’ on the road, profiling refugees, volunteers and aid workers in Europe.

A Broken Family Escapes Fighting in Yemen

To save his mother, wife and two children, Fairuz left one son behind. A refugee wrestles with the impossible math of war.

Fishing for an Education

Children fleeing deadly conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan share a singular pursuit: catching mudfish to pay for their schooling.

Little Omar Flies to Finland

Born with a rare hormone deficiency, Omar’s treatment stopped when his family fled Syria. Resettlement is his only hope to start growing again.

Find more stories like these on TRACKS.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, protects and assists people fleeing conflict or persecution. Established in 1951, it has a staff of more than 9,300 working in over 120 countries. It has twice been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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