To risk his life in the attempt

My Fourth Time, We Drowned
Forfatter: Sally Hayden
Forlag: Penguin Random House (USA)
REFUGEES / Every single day, people set out from Turkey to Greece, from Lebanon to Italy, from Morocco to Spain, from Libya to Malta and from Tunisia to Lampedusa. Never before have there been so many people on the run as there are right now. Journalist Sally Hayden gives testimony about the people the world has turned its back on.


All people are born free and with equal human dignity, says the UN's World
declaration about human rights. Is there really any longer any hold in this notion that human dignity is absolute?

For the first time since I started documenting myself refugeeone's crisis i the Mediterranean over twenty years ago, all escape routes over the sea are active. Every single day, people set out from Turkey to Greece, from Lebanon to Italy, from Morocco to Spain, from Libya to Malta and from Tunisia to Lampedusa.

Never before have there been so many people on the run as there are right now, and never before has it been so difficult to get to a safe haven.

So far this year, more than 2600 people have drowned in our holiday paradise. There is an average of over ten people who sink to the bottom of the sea every day, and that is only the ones we know about. People no one has seen drowned, and whole boats with several hundred people on board who just disappear are never registered as dead. We refer to them as ghost-ships, and the people on board remain not only missing without a trace, but also nameless.

A testimony

My Fourth Time, We Drowned, by journalist Sally Hayden, is a testimony to the people the world has turned its back on, and a powerful reminder that they all have a name, a story and a dream of a new life.

I august 2018 mottok Hayden følgende melding på Facebook. «Hi sister Sally, we need your help. We are under bad condition in Libya prison. If you have time, I will tell you all the story.» Og Sally Hayden tok seg tid.

Every single day, over ten people sink to the bottom of the sea.

I My Fourth Time, We Drowned she shows us which human rights violations we, by donating Norwegian tax money to Libya, not only agree to, but support. Through messages, photos, film footage and eventually through physical meetings with people on the run, Hayden establishes a comprehensive picture of what happens to people not only in Libya, or during the flight across the Mediterranean, but also what they go through during the dangerous journey through the Sahara. She paints a nuanced and logical picture of why people leave their homes in the first place.

A fine of 5000 euros each

On 3 October 2013, a boat with over 500 people on board sinks off Lampedusa. Almost all were from Eritrea and had fled a brutal regime and lifelong military service. 155 people were rescued. Of the 80 women who had been on board, only 5 survived. No children under the age of twelve were found alive.

Two weeks after this tragedy, a memorial service is held in Sicily. Eritrean authorities, the same from which the people had fled, are invited to a solemn ceremony to honor the victims. The people who survived the shipwreck and lost their loved ones, on the other hand, are not allowed to come, they remain in forced detention on Lampedusa. The deceased were awarded Italian citizenship post mortem, the survivors were fined 5000 euros each for entering Europe illegally.

Perhaps this is the whole essence of the treatment of people on the run: Human lives are at risk and they have no value.

What makes some lives considered more valuable than others? Which lives are worth mourning? What do we see when we consider other people's suffering?

In the book Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009), the American philosopher Judith Butler describes how the value of human life is ranked differently. Who counts as people? The issue is hotly debated in the social debate about people on the run.

In recent years, the EU has entered into increasingly inhumane agreements with countries such as Libya and Tunisia. Contrary to the very cornerstone of the Refugee Convention – the absolute non-return principle, or 'the principle of non-refoulement', which dictates that no one should be returned to a place where they are subjected to torture, every single day people are pushed out of international and European waters and returned to Libya against his will.

Slave markets, rape camps, torture, kidnapping, organ theft, human trafficking and extortion.

The damage I myself have seen on the people who have fled through libya, are indescribable. The testimonies tell of slave markets, rape camps, torture, kidnapping, organists, human trafficking and extortion. The media is silent. Except flash-reports from Lampedusa they give little explanation of who they are, the people who are fleeing, and what they have gone through.

My Fourth Time, We Drowned reminds us that people fleeing war, humanitarian abuse or hunger are just as different as the rest of us. People on the run are not a homogenous group, they are not either angels or demons, but they have one thing in common: When there are no legal avenues to seek asylum on, they don't let themselves be stopped by closed borders, even if it means risking their lives in the attempt.

During the twenty years I have documented the refugee crisis, there is only one thing that is repeated. Almost everyone I meet wants me to tell their story. Sally Hayden has done just that.

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