Six Of The World's Most Iconic Refugees

Six Of The World's Most Iconic Refugees

In the cesspit that is the Murdoch conglomerate's critique of the migrant crisis, one finds little rational and fair analysis of the reality of the worst influx of refugees the world has faced since the Second World War. The pain and suffering of millions of people was summarised by the harrowing picture of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi whose lifeless body recently swept on to the shores of Bodrum, Turkey. Up until this point, UK politicians and the mainstream media had taken a stance reminiscent of Manchester United fan Andy Tate's apathetic shrug of the shoulders during David Moyes' season in charge at Old Trafford; pledging little to aid the 19.5 million refugees in the world. Moreover, David Cameron and right-wing harridan Katie Hopkins went as far to use inflammatory and dehumanising language harking back to the dark days of Nazism. I could deconstruct the xenophobic language which has been thrown about par rapport the refugee crisis all day but I think we need to readdress our own perspectives of what a refugee is- a human being with hopes, dreams, aspirations, talent and potential.

The following is a list of just a small number of refugees who have made great contributions to 21st century life without whom things would be very different. All of the following were at some point in their lives officially defined as refugees. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." This list is by no means exhaustive and the UN has a far better list for those that are interested.

1.)Wyclef Jean

Lead singer and songwriter for classic 90s hip-hop group The Fugees -literally a shortened version of the word refugee- Wyclef Jean left his native country Haiti at the age of 9 fleeing the brutal dictatorship of Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc ' Duvalier with the rest of his family. Throughout his musical career, Wyclef Jean and The Fugees advocated for black empowerment and refugee rights, sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly. Check out 'Refugees on the mic,' a song whose opening line is a rallying cry for the refugees of the world. The tune which is a staple of any 90s party worth its salt 'Ready or Not' also bigs up refugees, with the lines:

'Ready or not, refugees takin' over,

The Buffalo Soldier, dread-lock rhasta,'

2.)Freddie Mercury

Real name: Farrokh Bulsara, Queen's flamboyant frontman is of Parsi Origin with parents from the Gujarat Region of India. Freddie was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now modern day Tanzania) in 1946. Freddie left his land of birth in the 1960s, during the country's tumultuous years of revolution sometimes referred to as Africa's 'Forgotten Genocide' which claimed the lives of 20,000 ethnic Arabs and Indians. Freddie and his family sought sanctuary in Feltham, Essex- from there he went to art school, took up singing and the rest is history....


I've been a big fan of MIA ever since that time she swaggered on to perform at the Grammy's in 2009 with Kanye, Jay-Z and T.I even though she was literally due to give birth at any moment. That same year MIA a.k.a Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam who is of Sri Lankan Tamil Origin was heavily criticised for speaking out against the genocide which was being undertaken by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil people in the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war. Channel 4's shocking documentary 'The Killing Fields,' filmed in August 2009 provides compelling evidence that genocide and crimes against humanity did take place and makes the Sri Lankan government's denial about as believable as Shaggy saying he didn't bang the girl next door on the bathroom floor. MIA had a turbulent childhood owing to her father being a prominent political activist. Eventually, MIA and her family were housed as refugees in southwest London in 1986 while her father stayed in Sri Lanka where he worked as a peace mediator.

4.)Bob Marley

Robert Nesta Marley is the most famous reggae artist ever. Not only has Bob provided the soundtrack for generations of stoners, Bob's music, like the The Fugees' is brimming with allusions to black oppression and the plight of refugees across the world. Bob Marley and the Wailers' ninth studio album Exodus was released after Bob Marley was exiled from Jamaica following an assassination attempt and refers to the political upheaval which Bob's homeland was going through during the elections of 1976.

5.)Albert Einstein

Most of us don't know the specifics of the theory of relativity but the man responsible for its discovery i.e. Einstein is one of the most famous Jewish refugees to escape the wrath of Nazism. Einstein fled his native Germany in 1932, just before the rising anti-Semitism in his homeland reached fever pitch, to take up a post as a professor at Princeton. Einstein tirelessly worked to save as many Jewish refugees as possible and the following quote from the renowned physicist summarises the attitude that we should be taking towards those currently fleeing abominable violence:

'I am almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer.'


Maybe the most famous refugee of all time? Can't say I'm a massive fan of all the man's work but he undoubtedly fits into the category refugee, what with having to escape King Herod's 'Massacre of the Innocents,' escaping Nazareth and seeking refuge in neighbouring Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, Jesus' mother Mary is questioned by an immigration officer only to be told that, 'the country's full and there's no room at the inn' (or something like that); so after travelling miles on the back of a donkey the son of God is born in a barn with no crib for a bed. This story is old school but still has parallels with today's refugee crisis and is a poignant reminder that the persecution of innocents has occurred throughout history and that is our duty to aid our neighbours.

Let's remember then that among the swarms/swathes/masses/hordes/schools/shoals (*insert nondescript word to describe large group of people here*) of men, women and children fleeing violence could be the musician that defines a generation, the scientist that finds a cure for cancer or even the son of God. Reggae would never have been brought to the masses if it weren't for refugees and we would never have had the theory of relativity, glam rock or Christianity. The list goes on....

The current crisis is a test of our humanity, we should try our hardest not to fail it.


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