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Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  258 ratings  ·  31 reviews
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Traveling for nearly two years and across four continents, Caroline Moorehead takes readers on a journey to understand why millions of people are forced to abandon their homes, possessions, and families in order to find a place where they may, quite literally, be allowed to live. Moorehead's experience living and working with
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 21st 2006 by Picador (first published March 3rd 2005)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Nov 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
This book starts with a sometimes confusing race through the history of organisations tasked with the management of displaced people but the following chapter, which describes the plight of Africans crossing the Mediterranean in often perilous and fatal conditions, is very moving as is the description of the Mexico-US border and the risks, again often fatal, that people take to reach what they hope to be a better life on the other side of the fence. The chapter on Australia is an indictment of ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Reading ”Human Cargo” by Caroline Moorhead has changed me. She explains the history of refugees and their rights. Then she shows us what it means to live between countries by recounting the experiences of refugees as they leave their homelands, and arrive in foreign lands.

“Some stories are so heavy only silence helps you carry them” wrote Anne Michaels in “Fugitive Pieces.” These stories were so raw that I could only read a few pages of this book at a time.

Refugees from across the world
Nicole Means
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this book several months to complete, it is extremely well-written. I was particularly interested in the chapter Afghanistan. Interestingly, Australia has taken extreme measures to keep refugees out-- this fact was particularly disturbing considering European settlers treated the Aborigines. This book was published several years ago, so it would be interesting to see how many of the statistics are accurate. I recommend this book to anyone interested in human rights and the horrible ...more
Mark Hebden
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
Refugees and Asylum Seekers have become political footballs in recent years, this book traces the history of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and follows the conditions of people seeking asylum in the world today. There are some personal, tragic and horrific accounts of the violence and persecution that people flee from, and the bureaucratic morass and ill-feeling they encounter when they finally arrive at any given destination in search of, not just a better life, but some ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: human-rights
Human Cargo is a difficult, but absolutely essential, read. Compelling and harrowing, Moorehead takes the reader through a global account of the refugee crisis - a patchwork of modern history and human accounts. Crucially, she succeeds at humanising the numbers. Moorehead effectively covers post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems caused by torture, killings, violence, fear and overwhelming loss, and further depression caused by uncertainty and the long limbo of the asylum ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it
I read the hardcover version of this book which, for some reason, is nowhere on here. A very good and detailed look at refugees today. What it means to be a refugee, how a person becomes a refugee, and what other countries are doing about refugees. What was nice about this is that it has a lot of stories about actual refugees--how they came to be refugees and what their lives are like as refugees. And this is what is so heartbreaking. What is worse is that these stories are an unbelievably small ...more
Tim Green
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly moving and important book detailing the journeys and hardships faced by refugees around the world.

One thing that really struck me was the effect that uncertainty has ones ability to live life. The uncertainty of whether you will granted asylum, the uncertainty of where you will end up and crucially whether you will be settled long enough in one place to start making connections such as friends or start an educational course, or whether you will be shortly shifted to another
Aditya Raj
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Last few decades of the 20th century witnessed an unprecedented mass exodus of people throughout the world and gradually it has become even worse as there seems to be no end to the cataclysms like civil wars, environmental catastrophes, foreign invasions etc. The flow of migrants and asylum seekers have been a constant predicament to the governments throughout the world as most of them are signatories to the UNHCR convention and hence have responsibilities to grant asylum to those fleeing ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a heartbreaking and very instructive book very relevant to today. I liked how she divided the book up into the different sections (leaving, arriving, afterward) and dealt with the different issues that concerned each. Overall I felt the author was fairly even handed in her presentation of the topic. It didn't become too preachy, but presented both sides of the argument.
The only weakness, which is not the book's fault, is that even now, ten years later it is somewhat outdated. Not on
Aug 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
DISGUSTED. Having come as a refugee in the US myself, I wanted to read this book, as I enjoyed C.Moorehead's other works. I was deeply appalled by hypocrisy and anti-Semitism in the chapter describing Palestinian camps. Not one word about acts of terror, suicide attacks, innocent people killed and maimed, and the only side being blamed for it all is Israel, and all of author's compassion lies with Palestinians. Meanwhile, the events on the ground tell us about "humanitarian" UNRWA activities, ...more
Robby sonzogni
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I learned so much from this book about human refugees throughout the world and how each country deals ( or doesn't) with them. It is sad in alot of places but so very important in the world view. Each chapter is about a different country.
Nov 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
I forgot I had read this book and realized while reading What is the What that I drew from some background information on the politics of refugee resettlement from Moorehead's research. (Although it's not necessary to have this information..Egger's writing speaks for itself).
Caroline Nguyen
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this book for a course at Stanford University with Professor Kulkarni.
The course was entitled Refugee Crisis Across the Globe. Loved how the book was divided in subparts, each containing a different story. It was rich in geography and culture!
Nov 14, 2011 added it
Shelves: unfinished
Okay so I didn't even get a quarter of the way through this book and I am unlikely to finish it (in fact, I think I've lost it). No fault of the book, it's interesting and well written, I think I wanted a break from it, and then never went back.
Sheryl Mountenay
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lord. It is almost unbearable what people have to endure. Yet they do!

This book is a hard read, took me several days, but while unsettling, very informative and so well written. Well worth it.

The arbitrariness of birth determines so much. Lots to think about.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and so educational. I really appreciated that she included history about refugees and the laws surrounding them instead of just talking about the current situation. Having the human interest pieces really brought it all home.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If everyone in the world read this book, I imagine refugees would be treated much more humanely. Moorehead tells the individual stories of refugees while tying the stories together nicely into themes and common experiences.
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a very good book about the worldwide issue of refugees. It told me a lot about a situation that I knew very little about.

However, it was also written from a liberal, anti-government, pro-UN, international, and open borders POV that I don't necessarily agree with.
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: international affairs majors
Recommended to Lauren by: an international affairs major
a must read if you care about human trafficking, but be warned, it will give you nightmares
Hannah Scott
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful book that opened my eyes. It was tough to read at some points but that was to be expected.
Mar 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
We live in an age of refugees.
Sharon W.
Mar 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
I love refugees...
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the 2006 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
an important book.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
I admit it... this is one that I didn't bother to finish. I'm finding that my time is just too precious to waste on books that aren't really good. This one was somewhat interesting but kinda dry.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in human rights
Shelves: nk-human-rights
Slow-burning but great book! Lots of detailed information and interviews with refugees and the current refugee crisis.
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it
A heartfelt and moving account of the plight of refugees across the world.
Apr 17, 2010 added it
Looking forward to this book as it seems to seek out refugees shortly after they leave their home country and wind up in various places. Starts with the Liberians in Cairo; very interesting!
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was an extremely interesting book, for those interested in Human rights and trafficking, this is a great book to read. Gives a nice concise history of the UNHCR and human rights law as well...
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
"... the poverty of camp refugees is about more than just not having things; it is about having no way to get them, no means of altering or controlling one's own life." - caroline moorehead.
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Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France; A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France; and Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer, Moorehead has also written for the New York Review ...more