Ahmed Zaoui is an Algerian refugee, who spent two years in prison after seeking asylum in New Zealand in late 2002. His imprisonment is widely seen as an abuse of justice, the result of a secret 'Security Risk Certificate' issued by the SIS, which the Government continues to uphold, despite the findings of the internationally respected New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority, who concluded that he was a genuine refugee and a 'passionate advocate of peace and democracy'. The 24 contemplations in Migrant Birds are Ahmed Zaoui's response to his two years in prison, one for each month he was locked up. These poems provide a moving insight into his plight, as he reflects on suffering and the universal struggle to find meaning from it. Ultimately they reveal Ahmed Zaoui to be a man of great faith, humanity and compassion. With a foreword from Ahmed Zaoui's lawyer Deborah Manning, and an introduction from Bill Manhire, Migrant Birds also features the poem 'He will come back, the one I'm waiting for', named the most important New Zealand poem of 2004 by Emma Neale, Selecting Editor for the website Best New Zealand Poems 2004.
In recognition of Ahmed Zaoui's commitment to cross-cultural understanding, Migrant Birds is a bilingual book, with the front half in English and the back half translated into Arabic.