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Introducing our newest podcast series, The Messenger
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.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat is a 24-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. He is from the Zaghawa ethnicity, and with his family, he fled his village to a refugee camp. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island, where he remains.
Michael Green is a journalist in Melbourne. He has written about environmental and social issues for the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Nature, Nautilus, Smith Journal, Right Now and Overland, among others. He is the coordinator of Behind the Wire, and has been working on a book of people’s stories from detention called They Cannot Take the Sky, which will be published in March 2017 by Allen & Unwin. He is also producing an exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum based on the stories in the book, which will open on 17 March 2017.
All messages as part of this discussion and any opinions, advice, statements, or other information contained in any messages or transmitted by any third party are the responsibility of the author of that message and not the Wheeler Centre.