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Get a prismatic take on the situation for refugees around the world, when Kaldor Centre historian Dr Claire Higgins guides the Sydney Writers Festival audience through the work of three international authors and their first-hand experience on the borders of Eastern Europe, Myanmar and East Africa. 

Acclaimed writer Kapka Kassabova, journalist Francis Wade and emergency physician James Maskalyk will discuss how their books go beyond the headlines to place today’s humanitarian situation in a broader historical and political context, in a panel discussion called The Global Refugee Crisis, on Saturday, 5 May at 11.30am at the Seymour Centre’s York Theatre in Sydney. 

The concept of a ‘global refugee crisis’ is not unique to the 21st century, but lately this phrase is shorthand for a record level of forced migration: today, 65 million people are displaced from their homes. Many of these children, women and men belong to long-standing, protracted refugee situations and internally-displaced populations, and the ‘crisis’ is one of political will among states. 

Francis Wade’s Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist violence and the making of a Muslim ‘other’ was published just days before brutal ethnic cleansing began in Myanmar in 2017.  The Economist called it ‘the book the foresaw the fate of the Rohingya’. A journalist, Wade tracks the violence back through Myanmar’s post-independence and colonial history, and shares the stories of other ethnic minorities alongside those of the Rohingya.

In Border: a journey to the edge of Europe, Kapka Kassabova revisits her family’s past to paint a compelling human portrait of the region where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey meet. Named The Guardian’s Travel Book of the Year, it traces the personal and political history of this landscape and the lives of those who lived on or fled to its border.

James Maskalyk’s Life on the Ground Floor: lessons from the edge of emergency medicine is at times a wrenching, uncomfortable exploration of human weakness and strength. In juxtaposing the story of his love for his grandfather and his experience providing emergency healthcare in Canada and Ethiopia, Maskalyk weaves together two deeply personal narratives to explore one’s sense of usefulness, purpose and ability to deal with death.  As in his previous Six Months in Sudan, he writes ‘without the usual cliches’.

Dr Higgins’ own book, Asylum By Boat: Origins of Australia’s refugee policy, was described by former Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs as “a behind-the-scenes account of how Australia's asylum seeker policy moved from humanity to inhumanity.” On Sunday 6 May at 3.30pm, Dr Higgins will be in a one-on-one conversation about the book with barrister Andrew Boe, at the Seymour Centre’s Everest Theatre.

You can reserve any remaining tickets for these events at the Sydney Writers Festival.

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.