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<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

The first day at sea. Winner 2013 Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year.

What People Smuggling Looks Like: Photo Of The Year

Photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor, 29, is a Hazara asylum seeker who fled Afghanistan — with his camera. UPDATE: On 14 October 2013, the image above was named Nikon-Walkley Photo Of The Year, the highest honour. On November 28, the photo essay below took out the Walkley Award for Photographic Essay of the Year.

He journeyed on a route similar to that taken by thousands of Hazara asylum seekers. From Afghanistan, he travelled through Pakistan and then flew to Thailand, from where he traveled by land, sea and air through Malaysia and Indonesia. From outside Jakarta he boarded a boat to Australia, but when it started to sink, he jumped off in the jungles of western Java. After two days of wandering with other asylum seekers, he was picked up, detained, and then escaped.

This exclusive photo essay shows Batoor’s trip, up to the point where his camera got soaked when the boat sank. His images are an incredible record of life and the presence of death on the road to a new life in Australia.

You can read the full story of Batoor and another asylum seeker, Barkat Ali, and listen to Batoor’s audio account of the journey here.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

The first day at sea.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

The first part of the land and sea journey begins after asylum seekers fly into Thailand. Here, Syed Arif, an Afghan asylum seeker, stares out of a hotel window in the southern border town of Sungai Kolok. The town is in an area affected by a brutal insurgency that has killed more than 5,000 people since 2004

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

A Thai people smuggler shouts over to asylum seekers waiting to take a boat across the border to Malaysia. After crossing, Batoor and three other asylum seekers travelled by car to Kuala Lumpur.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

Hazara asylum seekers praying in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before making the crossing to Indonesia.  Nearly 20 asylum seekers were locked in this safe house for three days before boarding vans and then a boat across the Malacca Straits to Sumatra.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

Asylum seekers pay an Indonesian people smuggler (centre, squatting) on the Indonesian island of Sumatra while arranging the next leg of their trip to Jakarta..

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

A shelter for underaged asylum seekers in Puncak, outside of Jakarta. The Puncak area is a strip of hillside holiday towns that has become a safe haven and staging post for asylum seekers. Those awaiting boats to Australia while away their time here until their chance to travel. Others, who have survived sinking boats and have avoided or escaped detention, usually find their way back here to start again.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

A house in Puncak. The man swimming in this photo is known to Batoor only as “Shabir”. Shabir, an Afghan Hazara, was one of more than 150 asylum seekers on a boat that sank off Java in late August. Only 55 people were found alive at sea. Shabir was never seen again.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

Hazara asylum seekers waiting outside an internet café in Puncak. Hazaras use prepaid mobile phones and internet to keep in touch with family back home and to send for money when they run out.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

Batoor was one of about 90 asylum seekers who left Java for Australia in the early hours of September 21. Most asylum seekers were made to hide below deck, to avoid arousing suspicion. On the first day at sea, when this shot was taken, the weather at sea was calm.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

By nightfall, the weather had turned bad. Passengers below decks started vomiting as the boat filled with water.

<p>Barat Ali Batoor</p>

Barat Ali Batoor

Batoor recalls: “Finally the captain told us: ‘The boat is not in a good condition … if you go ahead, I will take you, but that is completely, 100 per cent death.’” The boat turned back towards Indonesia, and ran aground in thick forest in western Java. Batoor’s camera was damaged by water while leaving the boat. He and a group of asylum seekers spent two days in the jungle before they hailed a boat, which then handed them into detention. Batoor and some other asylum seekers soon escaped, and returned to Puncak.

Watch Batoor’s story on SBS Dateline here.

17 comments on this story
by Marilyn

0Trouble is that it is no more people smuggling than it is flying to the moon, it is merely people exercising their legal right to seek asylum and by passing the immigration controls of very unfriendly countries who tend to deport them.

If refugees cannot get or pay for transport they tend to die and there is this trifling little thing called the smuggling protocols which forbids the criminalising of paying anyone to be safe.

October 16, 2012 @ 6:17pm
by Andrew


October 17, 2012 @ 3:45pm
by Helena

surprised to see that the asylum seekers were wearing life jackets - I'm sure that many make the journey without them

I wonder how much it all costs them all up - especially given that they have to pay so many people along the way :(

October 18, 2012 @ 10:07pm
by Homer Sapien

To me it looks a bit more like immigration to a wealthy nation than asylum seeking? Just a thought. ; )

October 22, 2012 @ 4:55pm
by Rebecca

Afghanistan is a very frightening place to live in - compounded especially if you are directly threatened.

October 23, 2012 @ 1:57am
by Marilyn

Why do people think that how much people pay to be safe has any bearing on anything? There is no requirement on refugees to be destitute.

October 24, 2012 @ 6:18pm
by Liz

Does anyone else see the irony in the third photo? The man is wearing a University of Illinois Alumni t-shirt. First world meets third world, educations meets desperation. I wonder how he came to own this item of clothing? Maybe I am reading too much into it, but it stood out to me.

December 6, 2012 @ 4:44am
by EvilPundit

So these asylum seekers crossed thhrough three other countries before boarding their boat to Australia.

Clearly they were country-shopping, as documented by their own pictures. They did not need to travel to Australia to be safe - they did it because they wanted to live in a wealthy country.

October 15, 2013 @ 11:22am
by Suleiman

Honestly, I think everyone deserves a happy life but Ilive in afghanistan and I have met the photgrapher a couple of times. I do not think all of this is worth leaving your country. Afghanistan maybe on headlines everyday but the reality on the ground is much different. We have lifes, business and much greater oppurtunities in here than in Australia. People spend thousands of dollars to go to Australia just because they have been extremely exposed by the stories and videos they have heard or seen about Australia. Its a choice they make and its their life but they do not deserve sympathy because they leave the best to find good.

October 15, 2013 @ 6:06pm
by Michael

Thank you for the images. Batoor is not an asylum seeker, he is a motivated traveller without a visa.

International covenants covering displaced persons do not give them the right to select the nation they intend to settle in. I am not free to choose a nation to live in, neither are they.

October 16, 2013 @ 8:46am
by Janey Pugh

Very well documented. Should be everywhere so people have more compassion for refugees.

October 16, 2013 @ 9:31am
by Carolyn

Two contributors have shown their apparent ignorance of the situation for this group in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Read up please.

October 16, 2013 @ 12:05pm
by Lisa

For the ignorant people above:

1. Please educate yourself about the persecution that the Hazara people face.

2. The other countries they have traveled through have not signed the Refugee Convention. They can not claim asylum there. They can not live there. See the pictures above of people stuck in a room for three days. In hiding. If they are found by police they face imprisonment or deportation. There have been some reports that refugees in Malaysia that were caught had their children taken from them and they ended up in sweat shops.

It ain't rocket science. Stop posting ignorant rubbish like the above.

A refugee is "Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country."

October 16, 2013 @ 2:39pm
by Suleiman

Lisa, its not just about Hazaras its about Afghans overall, off course mainly Hazaras. Im sadat from Bamiyan, a shia muslim. My cousin is one of these young men who have traveled to Australia as an asylum seeker. Its one thing that you have to save your life to go there, its another thing to leave your family in Afghanistan, spend more thena 20 grant ( in my cousin's case, it was 30k) and go live in a wealthier country. What I'm saying is that its a choice and they have every right to make it, but just because they have done two wrong things for us in Aghanistan.
1. We can no longer get a visa from a developed country for eduction ( I have been affected and have seen people who have lost great oppurtunities) because they believe once we get there we won't come back and will ask for asylum. I have been to US, UK and many other countries but have come back. Still getting a visa is extremely hard.
2. They have given a face of a disastrous country to Afghanistan for ither countries. We are a nation of peace, we are the soccer champion of south Asia, we have 3G Internet (first country in south Asia) and we have media, universities, music...etc.

Still, their life their choice. But its not fair for others in Afghanistan.

October 17, 2013 @ 2:55am
Show previous 14 comments
by Hemsley

The feds have just sacked a bunch of psychologists and other professional service providers from Darwin's Northern Detention Immigration Centre.

October 19, 2013 @ 1:55pm
by Michael Rogers

To "Lisa": Your post is genuine, thoughtful and informative but unfortunately you are dealing with witless trolls who hide behind puerile and fatuous pseudonyms to play what they see as a baiting game to produce anger and frustration in others. To do this they tender intentionally provocative statements of misinformation and vapidness and them sit back and watch as others spend/waste time trying to correct them.

You will never see from any of them an acknowledgement of their foolishness and ignorance and an acceptance of being corrected. Replying only encourages them and reinforces their pathetic over-estimation of their own 'cleverness'.

October 28, 2013 @ 9:26am
by Tettoe Aung

My dad told me 'to imagine yourself in the other's shoes' and I can relate to the anxiety they have to go through. I was an asylum seeker myself but I was most fortunate to be granted a permanent stay after 10 days. Even after that short period of waiting the process of formally being recognized as a resident was agonizingly slow. I can only imagine what they have to go through and what have become to the most generous and compassionate people that I knew, what have happened to them. Every Friday when I watch the briefing I feel sick in my stomach and I cannot understand how some people can be so cruel. I know no one is perfect but at least we should try.

November 30, 2013 @ 12:02pm
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