Podcast episodeCover image for of Introducing our newest podcast series, The Messenger

Introducing our newest podcast series, The Messenger  /  Migration

To begin 2017, in partnership with volunteer-run oral history project Behind the Wire, we launched a new podcast series. It's called The Messenger, and we'd like to share its first episode with you.

The Messenger brings you into the Australian immigration detention centre on Manus Island – and reveals, in intimate detail, one man's experience of what it's really like to flee tragedy and seek asylum by boat. It's reported almost entirely via WhatsApp voice messages sent from a smuggled phone. You might remember it from last year's podcast competition, So You Think You Can Pod; it was the winning entry.

About the episode

As a journalist, Michael Green had spoken to a lot of people who’ve been held in detention centres. Some were there for a few weeks, and others for as long as six years.

But he’d never spoken to someone who was still inside a detention centre, and that’s because Australia’s immigration department, and the governments of Nauru and Manus, have traditionally made it very difficult for journalists to communicate with detainees. Visitors aren’t allowed to make recordings, and the people who came by boat weren’t initially allowed to use their own phones

Then, early last year, Michael was given the phone number of a man who was still in detention on Manus Island. His name was Aziz. He was from Sudan, and he had a smuggled phone. But that was all Michael knew. So he sent him a text message saying hello, and he asked if we could speak on the phone. Aziz wrote back saying the reception in his room was too weak for calls.

Michael thought they’d have to communicate entirely by text. Then he realised that on WhatsApp, you can send little voice messages that get delivered whenever you’re in range.

And so, in March 2016, Michael and Aziz first made contact.

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