Impact Updates

City of Thorns



A film based on the book “City of Thorns” by Ben Rawlence.

Cabass, a fourteen year old schoolboy, escapes from an Al-Shabaab terror-recruitment camp outside of war-torn Mogadishu. His only hope is to reach Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, at the Kenyan border. He survives the journey but soon realizes that his new home is more of a detention camp than a place of newfound hope. With more than 600,000 refugees cramped into an area built for 90.000, the camp is nothing less than hell on earth. Cabass’ only way out is to make it onto a refugee resettlement list – but that’s like winning the lottery. When Al-Shabaab islamic fighters seed terror amongst refugees and NGOs alike, car bombs and kidnappings of Western aid workers send organizations fleeing for safety, leaving the refugees at their own devices.

Cabass is losing hope quickly but then falls in love with a Mary, a Somali Christian woman, with a top priority status for resettlement to the United States. Her family needed to flee when Al-Shabaab militants threatened to execute their entire family as a reprisal for having converted to Christianity. A love that is doomed in the camp as Christian family members and Muslim clan leaders reject their relationship for religious reasons. Disregarding the threats and menaces, they decide to get married only to face immediate attacks on their lives. As they flee to the safety of the UNHCR compound, their only hope is to get out with the golden ticket of resettlement. When Mary ultimately finds her name on the resettlement list, that of Cabass is missing…

A Somali woman in Dadaab refugee camp

A young Somali woman.

Shacks like this serve as little shops.

A Camel market in Dadaab refugee camp

Gathering at the goat market.

The gates to the "Green Zone", where the UN personnel live.

Director Richard Ladkani an writer Ben Rawlence on recce in Dadaab.

UNHCR refugee camp of Dadaab.

Lacking space in UNHCR tents, many illegally build shacks that are routinely torn down.

Barbed wire protects the UNHCR tents.

Where there's no barbed wire, there's acacia, a true "City of Thorns".

Travelling for westerners is stricklty in armoured vehicles only.

City of Thorns is in development.