What’s the Role of a Journalist in Telling the Stories of Refugees? Matthieu Aikins and Sally Hayden
Journalists Matthieu Aikins and Sally Hayden discuss their experiences of reporting on the migrant crisis and telling the stories of people who have made unimaginable choices to risk everything in search of a better life.
In 2016, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar made the heart-wrenching choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. Journalist Matthieu Aikins, then living in Kabul, decided to follow Omar, leaving his own passport and identity behind to go underground on the refugee trail with his friend. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brought them face to face with the people at the heart of the migration crisis: smugglers, cops, activists and the men, women and children seeking sanctuary.
In August 2018, Irish journalist Sally Hayden unexpectedly began to receive messages from migrants being tortured, starved and raped inside horrific Libyan detention centres. Her resulting investigation into the migrant crisis across North Africa reveals the reality of thousands of refugees bent on starting new lives in the West, who instead spend years waiting in Sudanese refugee camps, trapped in Libyan prisons and clinging to sinking dinghies in the Mediterranean. Weaving together WhatsApp and Facebook messages Hayden gives us a detailed and damning account of one of the deadliest migration routes.
In conversation with Jenny Lacey, Aikins and Hayden discuss the ways in which the western world has turned its back on refugees; the role that NGOs, the United Nations and the EU play; the root causes of the migrant crisis; and why people will risk everything.
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Matthieu Aikins’ The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is published by Fitzcarraldo. Sally Hayden’s My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route is published by Fourth Estate. Buy copies online or at the event from Waterstones.
Matthieu Aikins is a journalist currently based in Kabul. He has reported from Afghanistan and the Middle East since 2008. He is contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and has won numerous honors including the George Polk and Livingston awards. He is a past fellow at Type Media Center, New America, the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy in Berlin. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is his first book.
Image Credit: Kiana Hayeri
Sally Hayden is an award-winning journalist and photographer focused on migration, conflict and humanitarian crises. She is currently the Africa correspondent for the Irish Times and has worked with many other publications and broadcasters. She has reported across the Middle East, Africa and Europe and her writing has been translated into nine languages. A law graduate with an MSc in international politics, she has twice sat on the committee deciding the winner of Transparency International’s Anti-Corruption Award. In 2019, she was included on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list of media in Europe, partly because of her reporting on refugee issues.
Jenny Lacey was for many years an award-winning radio presenter, working for LBC and for the BBC. She was the BBC’s Education Correspondent for the South West, and became Managing Editor of BBC Radio Gloucestershire and then BBC Radio Bristol. She received the Variety Club Independent Radio Personality of the Year award for her work.
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