My Fourth Time, We Drowned

Hayden, Sally

The Western world has turned its back on refugees, fuelling one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in history.

In 2018, Sally Hayden received a message on Facebook: ‘Hi sister Sally, we need your help.’ It was from an Eritrean man who had been held in a Libyan detention centre for months. Everyone with him had tried to reach Europe, but they were caught at sea and locked up indefinitely. Now, Tripoli was crumbling in a fight between warring factions, and the refugees remained stuck, defenceless, with only one hope: contacting her.

With that begins Hayden’s staggering account of life along the world’s deadliest migration route: from brutal, vindictive Libyan guards to unexpected acts of kindness; the use of social media to crowd-fund ransoms; smuggling trials and the criminalisation of rescue attempts; the frustration of aid workers; fake marriages between detainees; the strain on real marriages; and the phenomenon of some refugees becoming oppressors after entering into Faustian bargains with their captors. With unprecedented contact with dozens of people inside Libyan detention centres, My Fourth Time, We Drowned will, for the first time, detail these stories.

This book follows the real lives of people from across Africa, including Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. It gives insight into one of the greatest human rights disasters of our time, while showing why the suffering is being allowed to continue.

In the future, people will regard this pivotal period with fascination and horror. Europe’s deliberate funding of the interception and imprisonment of tens of thousands of men, women and children seeking safety is a rejection of the global refugee system. The failure of NGOs and corruption within the United Nations represents a collective abdication of international standards that will echo throughout history. But most importantly, this book will highlight the resilience of humans: how refugees and migrants locked up for years fall in love, support each other through the hardest times and carry out small acts of resistance in order to survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear.