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Becoming One of the World’s 65 Million Refugees

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson | The New Press | October 3, 2016 | 5,452 words
Posted inBooks, Nonfiction, Story

Becoming One of the World’s 65 Million Refugees

Majid Hussain keeps having to run.
Refugees at Budapest Keleti railway station, September 2015. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson | Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis | The New Press | September 2016 | 20 minutes (5,452 words)

Below is an excerpt from Cast Away, by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson. This story comes recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

This war is none of my business.

Majid Hussain didn’t know who would turn up on his doorstep first: Colonel Gaddafi’s foot soldiers following orders to purge Libya of its migrant workforce, or vengeful rebels wielding Kalashnikovs and the conviction that everyone with black skin deserved to be lynched.

For months the Nigerian teenager had watched on television in Tripoli as rebels not much older than himself stormed through the desert in their cheap sunglasses and mismatching camouflage, and it had seemed inconceivable that this shabby army of the disaffected could pose a threat to Muammar Gaddafi’s calm and ordered capital. He had heard rumours that all Africans from south of the Sahara were at risk of attack from rebels seeking mass punishment for the few who had colluded with the regime – but surely these were just rumours? Every day Majid still went to work and returned home every evening to his reliable air-conditioning and his satellite TV. The rebellion had remained remote from his life, and he wanted it to stay that way.

This war is none of my business, he thought. I have already seen my own country torn apart by old hatreds – I don’t need to see that again.

Majid and his housemate Ali had laughed off reports on CNN and the BBC about fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli, and they didn’t want to believe the news that Gaddafi was bombing civilians in Benghazi. It was all Western propaganda, the two Nigerians convinced each other. Even when a spokesman for Gaddafi warned on public radio that they would flood Europe with migrants if there was any Western military action, the young men remained unconcerned.

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