My Fourth Time, We Drowned

My Fourth Time, We Drowned

Sally Hayden

Pub date
Fourth Estate
A4 153x234mm
496 pages
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Book Overview

‘The most important work of contemporary reporting I have ever read’ SALLY ROONEY

‘Compassionate, brave, enraging, beautifully written and incredibly well researched. Hayden exposes the truth’ OLIVER BULLOUGH


‘The most riveting, detailed and damning account’ CHRISTINA LAMB

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. They told stories of enslavement and trafficking, torture and murder, tuberculosis and sexual abuse. And they revealed something else: that they were all incarcerated as a direct result of European policy.

From there began a staggering investigation into the migrant crisis across North Africa. This book 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?

At its heart, this is a book about people who have made unimaginable choices, risking everything to survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear.

About the author

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 also worked with VICE News, CNN International, the Financial Times, TIME, BBC, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New York Times, Channel 4 News, Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera and Newsweek, among others.Sally has reported across the Middle East, Africa and Europe, from countries including Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Jordan, DR Congo, the Gambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Her writing has been translated into nine languages and she has appeared on national and international media. 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.


  • ‘The most important work of contemporary reporting I have ever read … I hope that Sally Hayden’s work can help to begin a radically new and overdue discussion about Europe’s approach to migration and borders’Sally Rooney, author of Beautiful World, Where Are You?
  • ‘Compassionate, brave, enraging, beautifully written and incredibly well researched. Hayden exposes the truth about years of grotesque abuse committed against some of the world’s most vulnerable people in all of our names’Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
  • ‘One of the most important testaments of this awful time in life’s history. It is both heartbreaking and stoic. I cry reading any page of it. Sally Hayden is a young and brilliant journalist’Edna O’Brien, author of The Little Red Chairs
  • ‘This vivid chronicle of the lives and dreams of those who risk all to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, may make you cry, but it should make you angry. It is not just a blistering rebuke to those who torture, rape and imprison, but to the rest of us, who turn a blind eye’Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor of Channel 4 News and author of In Extremis
  • ‘A veritable masterclass in journalism … The most riveting, detailed and damning account ever written on the deadliest of migration routes’Christina Lamb, Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Sunday Times and author of Our Bodies, Their Battlefield
  • ‘Read this great book shedding light on a monstrous crime’John Sweeney, author of North Korea Undercover
  • ‘Harrowing … A remarkable and important book’Michela Wrong, author of Do Not Disturb
  • ‘Heart-stopping … A vital book for anyone who wants to feel what it means to be human in the 21st century’Fintan O’Toole, author of We Don’t Know Ourselves
  • ‘A brilliant book, powerful and emotional … A must read for anyone with a conscience’Miriam O’Callaghan, host of RTE Prime Time