Cast Away

Stories of Survival from Europe's Refugee Crisis

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

Published: 5 May 2016
Trade Paperback, Royal PB
153x234mm, 272 pages
ISBN: 9781846276156

Other Editions


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Published: 2 March 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 272 pages
ISBN: 9781846276170

Ebook Available


Riot police patrol the borders, bodies of drowned children wash up on holiday beaches, a humanitarian disaster unfolds in refugee settlements: this is the European Union today. But how did a bloc that was founded on the values of human rights and dignity for all reach this point? And what was driving more than a million desperate people to risk their lives on the Mediterranean in the hope of finding sanctuary?

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson has spent years reporting on every aspect of Europe's refugee crisis, and Cast Away offers a vivid glimpse into the personal dilemmas, pressures, choices and hopes that lie beneath the headlines. Here, we meet five people forced from their homelands, including Nart, a Syrian lawyer who becomes an underground activist fighting the Assad regime until the risk of imprisonment and torture becomes too great. Sina is newly married and heavily pregnant when she finds herself travelling alone across three continents to escape the Eritrean dictatorship. And Hanan watches in horror as the safe world she built for her four children in Damascus collapses, and she has to entrust their lives to people smugglers.

While the politicians wrangle over responsibility, and the media talk in statistics, Cast Away brings to life the human consequences of the most urgent issue of our time.

About the author

Image of Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

CHARLOTTE MCDONALD-GIBSON has worked as a foreign correspondent for 14 years, reporting from three continents for the international media. From 2011 to 2013 she was Deputy Foreign Editor of the Independent, overseeing the paper's coverage of key world news events including the Arab Spring. Now based in Brussels, she writes about Europe for the Independent, TIME, and other publications. This is her first book. More about the author


‘McDonald-Gibson keenly evokes the hell of their voyages... To read these vivid stories is to understand not just the enormity of what is taking place, but the courage and desperation of those who embark on them’ Caroline Moorehead



‘McDonald-Gibson's Cast Away is a closely reported, passionately argued, often deeply moving account of five refugees' journeys to Europe. The unapologetically narrative style creates an effect similar to that of the photograph of the corpse of three year old Alan Kurdi in his red T shirt in 2015. It yanks away the anonymous screen of numbers and brings you face to face with real people - people you can recognise, in situations you can't. [Cast Away] start[s] to do for the refugees what British abolitionists did for the slave trade... mobilise eyewitness testimony to promote empathy, and through empathy, better policy’ Maya Jasanoff

‘McDonald-Gibson's compilation is both timely and a cause for serious concern... Her book re-humanises individuals who are often treated as statistics, if not demonised [and] provide[s] an invaluable reminder that most migrants are people not so very different from us.’ Peter Carty

‘McDonald-Gibson's gripping storytelling has a cinematic quality... At times it's easy to forget that these are the experiences of real people, not fictional characters, as the reader becomes immersed in harrowing stories of danger, deception and disillusionment. But McDonald-Gibson also balances individual stories with a wider historical sweep [and] offers insights into the extraordinary political and historical contexts of the migrants' home countries... [One of] the most important books you will read this year.’ Suzanne Lynch

‘This book returns humanity to those who have been consistently dehumanised across our continent. These are powerful and necessary accounts of resilience in the face of the most chilling and desperate of situations. A must read for any person who truly wants to understand the motivations of those who flee and the refugee crisis as a whole’ Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

‘This is a book which needed to be written and stories which needed to be told. Bravo’ Alex Crawford

‘This is a fascinating and necessary book about one of the great tragedies of our age as people flee failed and failing states in pursuit of a safe and normal life. It is essential reading for anybody interested in the individuals taking part in this mass flight and why they feel they have no choice but to escape’ Patrick Cockburn

‘This is a remarkably well documented and vivid account of why and how people are on the move towards Europe, an indictment of the European Union and its member states, and a call for moral clarity and political leadership’ Francois Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

‘We have digested the refugee crisis in its scary statistics, its shocking images, and in the xenophobic reactions it has provoked inside Europe. But in Cast Away we discover the human reality of the biggest crisis of our times as it is experienced by the individuals concerned, in all the painful particularity of their individual lives, reported and narrated with vigour and compassion’ Peter Popham, author

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