World Refugee Day: How it Feels to Not Have a Home

World Refugee Day

“These keys remind me of my life, the life I want to go back to.” said Shaima.


The sun peeked through the clouds just like any other day, the smell of toast wafting through the air like a summon to come out of slumber. Getting out of bed was hard, as usual, as eyes slowly focused around the small room. Though its size was laughable to some, for the inhabitants it was sufficient enough to hold an entire family’s memories while still having space for activities – space for children to grow, laugh, and play.

And then there was a big bang.

Unlike the one that gave existence to our universe, this one brought death and destruction, loss and desolation. Before the mind could comprehend what was happening, their bodies felt the impact of the blow.

Fast forward to a few months later and gone was the tiny room that held so much life, so much individuality. That loss meant the absence of safety and security for the family. Without a place to call home, the family was uprooted from their land, left to seek shelter in foreign countries. As a last resort, relying on the benevolence of strangers from an unfamiliar culture and different lifestyle.

But what does it really mean to have a home?

World Refugee Day

“I don’t have any belongings to remind me of home. I don’t even have memories of my mother’s face,” said Abdul Rahman. “The most important thing I brought with me was my life.”


In conjunction with World Refugee Day, the team behind TheRoofTalks decided to dig a little deeper into what the multicultural refugees in Malaysia have to call home.

Refugees who seek asylum in foreign countries are normally housed in refugee camps where they are fed and facilitated with no decision making rights. This means that they are unable to plan out their lives as they live day-by-day legally within the confines of the camp.

World Refugee Day

“I brought the report cards to remind my children how well they did in Sri Lanka, to give them hope, and confidence that they have the capability to achieve success again,” Rubba said.


Malaysia, on the other hand, does not have refugee camps; thus, the UNHCR prepares the necessary papers for these refugees to allow them to live freely within the Malaysian community. They are given freewill and agency over determining their own lives. With this freedom comes hardship. Refugees are left to fend for themselves when looking for housing and security.

Armed with only the clothes on their backs and what little money they have in their accounts, they choose to share high-rise low cost apartments with a large number of people to spread out the cost of rent. Often, landlords take advantage of the fact that these refugees are hiding away from the authorities to hike up the cost of their rent.

World Refugee Day

When their grandmother died, she left for them some things that belonged to her – gold jewelry for the girls, prayer beads, and her beloved red shawl.


Most refugees are completely content with living shoulder to shoulder with their fellow refugees in need, sharing facilities that are sometimes in unsanitary conditions, all in order to ensure everyone has a portion of food in their bellies and a place to sleep at night.

These refugees, who were originally strangers, become a family in these times of crisis and end up building a strong community based on helping each other to rebuild their lives in a foreign land. Many of the members of the community share everything they have despite having their own struggles.

World Refugee Day

The most important thing he carried with him is a picture of his father. His most fervent wish is to be able to see his father again.


For them, survival beats comfort and helping their fellow survivors is key to rebuilding everything that they had been forced to leave behind – their families, friends, careers, educations, homes, their lives.

These refugees are fully capable of rebuilding their lives but they still require all the help they can get. By helping them to become self-sufficient, you are aiding another human to have the dignity of life that we all are entitled to.

World Refugee Day

The most precious items they carried with them were their traditional attire.


To contribute to these refugees, please do head on over to

Written by: Renu & Sheldon, in support of the aid of refugees #WithRefugees
Images are courtesy of the UNHCR.

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