Deborah Ellis’s novel No Safe Place includes the stories of numerous people who are traveling clandestinely ona boat from France to England. The main characters are Abdul, Rosalia, and Cheslav, each of whom is escaping from a difficult situation in a different country. On board the boat, they meet Jonah, an English boy who works on the boat. Along with narrating their interactions on the boat, which they learn was primarily used for drug smuggling, the author intersperses chapters with the characters' backstories, explaining how each of the three travelers arrived in the current situation.
Abdul is a Kurd from Iraq. His home was destroyed by bombs during the war with the United States. He was also orphaned when his mother was killed, after soldiers attacked their car because women were forbidden to drive. Abdul feels guilty that he could not save her.
Rosalia is a Roma girl who cannot consider herself a citizen of any country. She feels that she is in search of a homeland. In Berlin, Rosalia had escaped from enslavement by a sex-trafficking ring.
Cheslav is Russian and has escaped from a Russian military school. He had grown up in an orphanage. He reveals an unexpected talent for playing the trumpet and dreams of moving to New Orleans and joining a band there.
Jonah’s situation is rather different. He is English and has been working with his uncle on the Channel crossings. His uncle was the smuggler with whom the children had contracted. Jonah worries about being alone and tries to get the others to pay him the money they owed his uncle.