Political Writing book prize winner
My Fourth Time, We Drowned
Published by: Harper Collins
The Western world has turned its back on refugees, fuelling one of the most devastating human rights disasters in history.
In August 2018, Sally Hayden received a Facebook message. ‘Hi sister Sally, we need your help,’ it read. ‘We are under bad condition in Libya prison. If you have time, I will tell you all the story.’ More messages followed from more refugees. From there began a staggering investigation into the migrant crisis across North Africa.
My Fourth Time, We Drowned follows the shocking experiences of refugees seeking sanctuary, but it also surveys the bigger picture: the negligence of NGOs and corruption within the United Nations; the economics of the twenty-first-century slave trade and the EU’s bankrolling of Libyan militias; the trials of people smugglers; the frustrations of aid workers; the loopholes refugees seek out and the role of social media in crowdfunding ransoms. Who was accountable for the abuse? Where were the people finding solutions? Why wasn’t it being widely reported?
David Edgerton, the Chair of Judges for The Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2022, commented:
Hayden’s reporting is an extraordinary exploration of a modern reality using modern means: truly a book of our times. While many people seeking refuge from the terrible logics of repression, war and poverty cannot easily cross frontiers, phone and Facebook messages can. They allow contact with home but are also the means by which ransoms are gruesomely demanded by traffickers. But they are also the way in which Hayden explores the lives of people stuck under the control of traffickers, militias, the UN, and lets them speak to us as full human beings: hungry, ill, and often doomed in their quest for safety. She gets the terrible truth out to a world that has been far too indifferent.