Refugee Stories

Dilemmas: Watch a Refugee video

For many refugees the choice is between the horrific or something worse. The following videos tell the stories of individuals who were forced to leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.

Kenya: Hawa's dilemma

When Hawa was a child, her father was murdered by rebels and her mother was kidnapped. Later Hawa was jailed and raped. When she was released, she fled to Kenya, where she now lives as a refugee. Watch Hawa's story here>>

Greece: Hussaini's dilemma

The father of 13-year-old Hussaini feared he would be targeted by the Taliban and arranged for his son to escape from Afghanistan with the help of a human smuggler. Watch Hussaini's story here>>

Sri Lanka: Lena's dilemma

When the conflict reached her town in Sri Lanka, pregnant Lena, with her 4-year-old son in tow, went in search of her husband, who was working in another town. The conflict intensified while she was away. Watch Lena's story here>>

Pakistan: Misal Khan's dilemma

Misal Khan's town in Pakistan became the target of a bombardment and his family hid in the basement to shelter from the attack. See the short video here>>

Thailand: Thang's dilemma

Thang is a refugee in Thailand. He and his mother fled his village because he feared being forced to join an army that was killing his own people. Watch Thang's story here>>


Read a Story About a Refugee Living in Ireland





In 2011, as part of our commemorations for World Refugee Day 2011, the UNHCR Office in Ireland organized a photo exhibition of 11 refugees who came to Ireland in the sixty years since the adoption of the 1951 Refugee Convention. This exhibition was called 60 Years – Stories of Survival and Safe Haven and was displayed during Dun Laoghaire’s Social inclusion Week.  We also produced a booklet which highlighted the long but hidden connection between Ireland and UNHCR and international protection.

Below you can read interviews with six of the eleven refugees from the exhibition, as well as profiles of three other refugees who shared their incredible and inspiring stories with us. 


1940s >> Elizabeth O'Gorman

At just eight years old Elizabeth O’Gorman came to Ireland from war-torn Germany as a child refugee. The year was 1946 and Elizabeth had lost her father to the Eastern front , while her mother had died shortly after giving birth to her and her twin August. The children were selected for inclusion in the Irish Red Cross's 'Operation Shamrock' programme, a novel initiative brought 1000 of the most vulnerable German, French and Austrian children to Ireland for a three year period of rest and respite. Elizabeth was legally adopted after the programme's completion and has spent all her life in Ireland. Read Liz's story here

1950s >> Olga Murphy
From Hungary and now living in Limerick. Olga arrived in Ireland in 1956 as a young girl of 17, one of 350 refugees who came to Ireland fleeing the Soviet tanks after the Hungarian Revolution. Olga still lives in Limerick a short distance from the former Knockalisheen refugee camp where the Hungarians were housed in 1956. Read Olga's story here.

1960s >> Nguyen Mai

Nguyen Mai and her family came to Ireland in 1979 with the Vietnamese "boat people" following the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975. After three attempts to leave Vietnam by boat her family were lucky to make it to a refugee camp in Hong Kong as many others tragically lost their lives in their attempts to cross the stormy seas. Read Nguyen's story here.

1970s >> Memo & Alvaro Aravena
Following the Pinochet coup in Chile, Memo and Alvaro came to Ireland in 1974 as refugees with their parents and 3 siblings. They were among 12 Chilean refugee families accepted into Ireland by the Irish Government. They lived for a number of years in Shannon before moving to County Dublin where they both live and work. Read the Aravenas' story here.

1980s >> Abbas Ghadimi
Abbas Ghadimi, an Iranian refugee of the Baha'i faith came to Ireland in the early 1980s. He now runs a health food and homeopathy business in Kilkenny. Read Abbas' story here.

1990s >> Abdullah Dirir Hersi
Abdullah left Somalia in the 1980s and was in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion. While Abdullah escaped the violence in Kuwait his family meanwhile fled the outbreak of civil war in Somalia. Having come to Ireland in 1991 Abdullah says that he is now part of Ireland’s ups and downs. “If you ever see me complaining, my complaints are not that deep. Ireland accepted me. I am safe and my family are safe. We are very grateful to be here.”  Read Abdullah's story here.

2000s >> Patrick Buni
Patrick Buni fled the violence that erupted in Southern Sudan and which tragically took many of his family members and friends. He arrived in Ireland in 2008. Patrick was nominated to the Kilkenny Comhairle na nÓg last year and now regularly meets up with Kilkenny County Council to speak on behalf of other young people in Ireland about issues affecting them. Read Patrick's story here.

2000s >> Emma

Raped and tortured, both mentally and physically, Emma* fled home six years ago. Forced in to hiding, she had no long-term option but to flee. In 2007 Emma sought asylum in Ireland based on her sexual orientation and in 2013 she was granted refugee status. To learn more about the persecution of LGBTI people, please see here

2000s >> Abdul Ali Hassan

Abdul was just fifteen when he arrived in Ireland, anxious and alone. Fighting in his hometown of Kismayo, Somalia, had taken the life of his father and jeopardised the safety of his family. He had no choice but to flee. Seven years later he is a graduate of DCU and winner of the ‘Barnardos Helping Hands Award' for his outstanding voluntary work in the local community. Read Abdul's story here


Listen to an interview with a refugee living in Ireland

To hear the stories of two refugees: Hassan Faramarz from Iran, now living in Ennis Co Clare, and Ludmila Burcovschi from Moldova who lives in Ballyhaunis Co Mayo, please click here

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