cover image My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route

My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route

Sally Hayden. Melville House, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-61219-945-0

Journalist Hayden debuts with a harrowing look at the refugee crisis in Africa. Contacted in 2018 by an Eritrean migrant confined to the Ain Zara camp in Tripoli, Libya, Hayden soon realized that she “had stumbled, inadvertently, on a human rights disaster of epic proportions.” In 2017, she explains, the EU began funding the Libyan coast guard’s efforts to intercept migrant vessels in the Mediterranean and detain the passengers. Those “locked up without charge or trial, indefinitely,” include Kaleb, an Eritrean teenager who traveled from Ethiopia to Sudan, then across 1,400 kilometers of the Sahara Desert to Libya, where he was held captive by smugglers for more than a year before making two failed attempts to cross the Mediterranean. Elsewhere, Hayden documents torture and sexual abuse, women giving birth without medical care, and suicide by immolation. She also widens the lens to explore the repercussions of the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s and talks with refugees sent to camps in Rwanda, which still bears the scars of the 1994 genocide against ethnic Tutsis. A running thread is the inefficiency, and in some cases outright corruption, of international relief organizations including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose staff members are alleged to have taken bribes in exchange for fast-tracking the resettlement process for asylum seekers. Intrepidly reported and vividly written, this sobering account shines a spotlight on an underreported tragedy. (Mar.)