They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)



  1. Ah, man. Welling up here. Such a beautiful piece. And so utterly clever. Brian, sir….you are a top, top bloke.

      1. A colleague read your poem to some autistic young people we work with, when he read it top to bottom one of the kids kept shouting I bet Donald Trump wrote it ! Due to present events I could understand why he would think that. On reading it bottom to top he got quite emotional and said ‘nah he’s not that smart ‘ ! It is one of the most poignant piece of poetry I’ve ever read ….. Thank you x

      1. Hi Brian,

        I am using your poem with my unruly year 9s and they are really enjoying it. It gave me goose-bumps when I read it backwards. How long did it take you to make a poem that worked both forwards and backwards? I would love to tell them.

        Thank you,


      2. Unruly Year 9s! You have my sympathy.

        The actual writing of the poem didn’t take too long at all – maybe 2-3 hours. But I’d been thinking about a reversible poem for months. What eluded me was the right subject. It was whilst reading some very heated, diametrically opposed ‘conversations’ on Twitter that it occurred to me that refugeeism was precisely the right kind of topic for this approach.

  2. Always looking for new ways to challenge my pupils and to make them think more deeply. This certainly achieves both of these goals, no matter which way you look at it.

  3. Brian, this poem (Refugees) is spreading like wildfire on Facebook, particularly among people like me who aren’t that into poetry but have been following the refugee issue closely. Most shared thing I’ve ever posted. UNHCR’s head of communications, Melissa Fleming, is among your fans. Thank you for such amazing work!

  4. Today I was asked to share a favourite poem in my languages class at Uni. My tutor and fellow classmates were in awe of the depth of the poem and the brilliance of the method. Thank you for writing such an important and impressive poem.

  5. This is a beautiful poem very skilfully written.

    We have decided to use it for discussion in the classroom teaching Citizenship here in Bermuda.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hi Brian
    I am an educational writer concerned with social justice issues and would like to use this poem as a way to help young people engage with and explore the refugee situation around this year’s Refugee Week which has ‘Welcome’ as its theme. The poem would be used to encourage young people to reflect on stigma and negative stereotypes and to undertake creative writing to formulate a message of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK. I am working with my own organisation Lifeworlds Learning and with the Humanitarian Education team at British Red Cross to make these materials freely available to schools and educators. Your poem would be part of a wide unit of activities and stimuli.

    I can not see any copyright or permissions information on this page so I am hoping that in writing to you here you might be willing to respond and allow the above sharing and use of your very powerful poem. We would link educators directly to this page as part of the resources.

    Many thanks for your work and for your consideration of this matter.

    1. Hi Rob, thanks for getting in touch. Given the very worthy cause and work going on across your organization and others, then please do feel free to share this poem as part of these materials.

      1. Hi Brian

        Many thanks for your consideration and generosity in this matter. Would you like to see a link to the final resources that it is used with? If so I can send you that when they are published later this month.

        Best wishes

  7. Dear Brian

    Please may I request the use of your poem in a powerpoint slide to be played during the intermission of our event during Refugee Week? The slide show will contain images of the crisis Syrian refugees are facing as well as current media about the people displaced since the civil war.

    This is the show.

    There is more information about it on our Facebook page about our Festival here:

    We wanted powerful but modern ways to interact with the audience. We are a group called Friends of Refugees. We are based in Bedford. This is our website:

    You are welcome to join us.
    Kindest regards
    Hazera Forth

  8. Dear Brian, I am a teacher working in Victoria and am currently in the process of authoring a unit of learning for the Reading Australia project, about Libby Gleeson’s novel “Mahtab’s Story”. I would like to use your poem “Refugees” as a learning resource in that unit. I can either use it directly in the unit or link back to your page, depending on your preference. I would be most appreciative if you will agree to this.
    Kind regards,

    1. Dear Nirvana, thanks so much for getting in touch. I’d be very happy for you to use it. If you could link out to the page that would work best from my perspective. best wishes, Brian

  9. Dear Brian,

    Please can I use your poem as the basis for a drama lesson links to the theme ‘outsiders’ ?

    Kind regards

  10. Hi Brian,

    I am currently putting together an art installation down in Somerset this summer all about life as a refugee camp on behalf of the human rights charity that I work for. I’d love to use different form of art including poetry, would I be able to use this as part of the space, the idea is to challenge people’s perception of what a refugee is so this would be absolutely perfect – all credit given to you obviously.

    Many thanks,


    1. Hi Lisa, I’d be flattered for you to use this poem as part of that. Any context in which it can help raise awareness and change perceptions is a good thing. Do please go ahead. best wishes, Brian

  11. Hi, Brian.

    My name is Montserrat Aloy and I have translated your poem into Catalan. I am a poet and belong to the Catalan Writers’ Association.I would like to ask for permission to publish the translation to make people aware of what a refugee is, so this would be absolutely perfect – all credit given to you obviously. I have a blog, and my account in FB and twitter is through mya full name (FB) and @cantireta in Twitter.

    I have already read the translated version in public in Catalan. It was awesome how the people’s faces changed when I read it from bottom to top!!

    Thanks so much for your great poem.

    Kind regards from Catalonia,

    Montserrat Aloy

    PS. For some unknown reasons I cannot see this comment published. Excuse me if you have received it 3 times already. I’m going nuts… 😀

    1. Thanks, Montserrat. Sorry about the delay in responding – I’m on holiday at the moment. I’d be honoured to see this poem in Catalan – whatever can help to raise awareness. So, yes, please do go ahead.

  12. Just saw a clip about you at the BBC’s website, and it referenced this poem. I read it and was left speechless by its unpretentious but impacting language and form. So, I’ll simply say, all the best to you, Brian.

  13. Hello Brian: I saw your “Refugees” poem at the art installation in Somerset, mentioned earlier – and found it profoundly moving. I should like to see it used in our church magazine – including of course a credit to yourself and a link to your website. But I couldn’t find an e-mail address for you, to send you more details. Would it be OK to publish, please?

  14. Hi Brian – I would also like to use your poem “Refugees” in our church newsletter – fall edition. I will provide credit with a link to this website. Would it be okay to publish?

  15. Hi Brian,

    (Apologies if I’ve posted this twice) Really fantastic work, I always look out for your tweets!

    I am currently writing my dissertation in the form of a translation commentary. I am translating a French work of fiction that does not portray refugees in a particularly positive light (slight understatement), so my aim is to do so in a way that encourages tolerance and a broader understanding of the plight of refugees, by linking it to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.

    Your poem would fit perfectly in my ‘Translator’s Preface’ section, would I please be able to include it with credit and a link?

    Many thanks,


  16. Hi Brian,

    I volunteer for Wakefield City of Sanctuary, and came across your poem in a Quakers magazine in York recently.
    I’d like to put it on the Wakefield City of Sanctuary web page, and Facebook page of that is OK with you, or maybe link directly to the poem on your site?

    Thanks for this poem, which really makes one think twice about attitudes to the refugee crisis, and what our response should be.

  17. Hi Brian, I wonder whether I might include your poem ‘Refugees’ in the St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey Quarterly Newsletter, April 2017 issue? Full credits and a link will be given. The Newsletter is distributed electronically and in hard copy free to neighbouring institutions/people in Parliament Square as well as people at St Margaret’s and Westminster Abbey.
    Best wishes,

  18. Hi Brian
    I’m hoping you might agree to letting me use ‘Refugees’ in my Reflection for the Week for the 5 Churches (in West Yorkshire) in which I am a Minister. My colleagues and I use this weekly reflection for a variety of functions…
    This year I’m hoping to increase it’s use as a way of raising issues about matters of social justice and the need for tolerance and understanding. The reflections are made available electronically, on paper and displayed on tables during weekly coffee mornings lunches etc.
    I think this is a great piece of writing for which will you will be given full credit.
    You have a wonderful gift and ability to provoke thought in a creative way. Thank you for sharing it!
    Janine Atkinson (Revd)

  19. Hello Brian,
    My name is Núria Cuadrat. I’m from Girona (Catalonia, Spain) and I work in a Peace Center (the CeDRe: ). We are actually running a school campaign called “Periodistes per la pau”. During this campaign the children (about 4.100) play as peace journalists making tv news, radio podcasts and the older pupils are working in a 16pages Peace newspaper.
    Is because of the “Peace Newspaper” that will be published on 32th of January, I contact you. It will be possible to use your “refugees poem” with its Catalan translation on it? We want to publish the poem on page 3 or 12 where children have made news about this topic. There will be _of course_ your name and blog direction.

    Thank you, in advance for your answer.
    And have a good weekend,

    1. Hi, Nuria. I’m Montserrat Aloy, the translator of this poem into Catalan. You can find it in my FB account under the same name, Montserrat Aloy or in my blog,

      Please mention authorship and translator

      Thanks so much.


      Montserrat Aloy

  20. This is a very powerful poem. I edit our church magazine, and I would really like to use to make people think in more depth about refugees and attitudes to them. Would this be possible?

      1. Brian, I would like to print Refugees in our parish newsletter too, in a parish of Melbourne, Australia – where the poor treatment of refugees is urgently under scrutiny.

  21. Hello Brian. What a powerful and clever poem! Thank you for sharing it.

    One of the ladies at church gave me a copy and asked if we could use it in our church magazine. Would that be okay? (Southwick Methodist Church, West Sussex, UK)

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