a Number, a Name

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

By Jelle Wassenaar


A poem from two different perspectives about refugees who are lost in the numbers, currently living in a camp where they are usually asked for their tent / isobox  number when on the receiving end of food, hygiene items and such. I’ve tried to paint the picture from a camp resident and a volunteer (who are wearing name tags).


a number, I have a name

reduced to ones and zero

because of where I came from

so much I lost in the stats

I am a number, I had a house

now I have a number

isolated in a box

boxed in between isos

so many strangers, in this place

for 12 months, I am going crazy

plucking my beard

lining up twice a day, used to be three

they recognise my face, do not ask my name

I am not myself, say the number

been doing this for ages

not much to do beside sleep and eat

a community that’s gated

changes made

how many adults, children & babies

how can they get it wrong

guess this one is new

frustrated but still say thank you


sit at a table, ask the number

daily routine, bring the key

not that important, part of our duty

food is not that good

still try to sell it to everyone

waste, too and so much, too less

our list a mess

organisations don’t share

people lie and take

faced with so many

we should recognise faces

more difficult than it sounds

fool me once, I get it

fool me twice, I should know better

sorry it was picked up

sorry no more juice, bad luck

a community yet not one

people the victims

we apologise when we see that look in their eyes

I know the number of a few, pick up together too

most know my name, can’t say the same

I smile, but feel like I’ve treated you inhumane

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