Our Philosophy

The refugee debate is paternalistic

The European media rarely report from the point of view of refugees. Consequently, there are  a lack of different perspectives entering the debate—simply increasing the numbers of scientific reports or stories from outsider perspectives cannot compensate for this. Constructive criticism by refugees on their treatment is nearly non-existent. We want to change this.

The slogan #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs applies to all social justice movements. While this hashtag originates from the disability rights movement, we would like to extend its usage to the refugee debate. The slogan points to the issue of paternalism. Countless politicians, NGOs and volunteers have their heart in the right place, yet forget to truly listen to those concerned—the refugees themselves. This is not only demotivating but also creates inefficiencies. By making decisions about the lives of refugees without their input, Europe gives refugees the feeling of having no choice over their lives. They are at their host countries’ mercy, relying on their goodwill. For example, there is evidence that compulsory language and integration classes hinder refugees who are proficient in English from quickly finding work.

We would like to emphasise that we do not argue for the abolition of rules, but that they have to be agreed upon in dialogue between refugees and hosts.

While supporting all initiatives which spread the stories of refugees, RefuTales goes further. In our view, it is necessary to involve refugees in the refugee policy debate. Not only does this empower refugees by showing them that we value their insights, but it also helps solve the countless problems that exist ranging from housing to job market integration. The opinions of refugees could offer the key that we have all been searching for.

Unfortunately, refugees are often infantilised and seen as passive and inferior receivers of help who we ‘successful and wise westerners’ are kindly taking under our wings. Yet, refugees are just as intelligent, creative, and many also as educated as we are. Having made it to Europe, they have already demonstrated a willingness to take risks and work hard for their dreams—skills that are essential in today’s economy. More importantly, they are human, and by their humanity alone their views are deserving of the same level of respect.

Focus: daily problems in Europe

The circumstances under which refugees come to Europe are often demeaning. Whilst solutions must urgently be found, this is not the focus of the blog: there are already many initiatives aiming to relieve the suffering of fleeing refugees, and a blog can can change little about the complex issue of human trafficking.

First and foremost, we aim to tackle inefficiencies: where they are and how they can be reduced.

By limiting ourselves to what happens on European territory, however, we can well have a big impact. The daily problems that prevent refugees from flourishing but are rarely talked about, interest us the most.

About the name ‘RefuTales’

We would like to give refugees a platform to spread constructive ideas, so we coined a name that contains both ‘refugees’ and ‘tales’ . The contraction ‘RefuTales’ alludes to the word ‘refute’—meaning to take a stand against something. With our blog, we take a stand against paternalism. When refugees come to Europe, they are often deprived of many freedoms: where to live; where to work; what language to speak. They are often treated like livestock—divided up between different countries. We refute the idea that refugees should be left at the mercy of western peoples and politicians. They have their own minds, and their voices should be heard.


When refugees flee to our countries, they are deprived of a lot of freedom of choice. In policy questions, too, they are rarely listened to. With RefuTales we want to change this. We strive to bring refugees’ opinions to a wider audience, we are hoping to give refugees a voice. Ideally, our project will offer new insights that will lead to a broader public debate.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Cornelius, Sajida and Dorien