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Seeking Refuge in a Hostile World, with Sally Hayden

How government policy and media narratives have shaped our understanding of refugees

Over two million people fled Ukraine in just twelve days as Vladimir Putin waged a brutal war against the country. The support for Ukranians has been compassionate and heartwarming – but it has also raised questions about why those fleeing North Africa and the Middle East are not afforded the same degree of sympathy. For example, most Ukrainian refugees are crossing into Poland, a country still busy constructing a wall along the Belarus stretch of its border to prevent the entry of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Europe’s open arms approach to refugees in the current instance has undermined the narrative pushed by politicians in recent years that Europe is unfairly burdened with too many asylum seekers it cannot afford to support. 

In March 2022 award-winning investigative journalist Sally Hayden came to Intelligence Squared to discuss her investigation into the reality of the global migrant crisis, to reveal not only the shocking experiences of refugees seeking sanctuary but also the bigger picture: the negligence of NGOs, alleged corruption within the United Nations, the economics of the twenty-first-century slave trade, the EU’s bankrolling of Libyan militias and the trials of people smugglers. Drawing from her new book My Fourth Time, We Drowned she shed light on how government policy and media narratives have shaped our understanding of refugees and offered a pathway to a more constructive and compassionate system of asylum. 

Praise for My Fourth Time, We Drowned

‘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 Normal People and 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

‘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



Sally Hayden

Award-winning journalist and photographer focused on migration, conflict and humanitarian crises

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 including the BBC, the Sunday Times, the New York Times, Foreign Policy, Channel 4 News, the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Newsweek, NBC News, VICE News, CNN International, the Financial Times, the Telegraph and TIME. 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, Liberia, Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Uganda. Her writing has been translated into nine languages. In 2019, she was included on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list of media in Europe, partly because of her reporting on refugee issues. Her first book is The Fourth Times We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World's Deadliest Migration Route.

Linda Yueh

Economist, broadcaster, and writer

Economist, broadcaster, and writer. She is Fellow in Economics, St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford; Adjunct Professor of Economics, London Business School; and Visiting Professor, IDEAS, London School of Economics. She is the author of The Great Crashes and The Great Economists, a Times Best Business Book of 2018.