An Afghan photo journalist asylum seeker, featured by Dateline filming his ill-fated boat journey, has won two Walkleys for his work.
Thursday, November 28, 2013 - 21:30

An Afghan Hazara photo journalist and asylum seeker, who documented his ill-fated boat journey trying to reach Australia, has won two prestigious photography awards for his work.

Barat Ali Batoor's story has twice featured on Dateline... Batoor's Journey showed his video of the desperation as the boat sank, ultimately crashing on an Indonesian island, and Crunch Time caught up with Batoor ten months later living in Melbourne after being granted refugee status.

Batoor won the inaugural Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year Award for an image showing asylum seekers emerging from below decks on the boat bound for Australia...

The image, entitled 'The First Day at Sea' and originally published in The Global Mail, is part of a photo essay called Hazara Exodus, which also won the Nikon-Walkley Award for Excellence in Photojournalism.

Follow the links above to find out more and see the full photo essay below.

Batoor's Story

Barat Ali Batoor wrote the following about his story to accompany his photo essay...

In 2005, I began documenting the displacement of my people, the Hazaras, as they escaped oppression in Afghanistan and Pakistan to safety abroad. By 2012, I had become part of the story, forced, also, to flee for my life from my home in Kabul. My camera came with me.

’Hazara Exodus’ is a collection of the images I took on the long smugglers’ route through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and by sea to Australia. It is a journey of sudden midnight departures, long road trips, surreptitious transactions, treks through jungles, and terror at sea. It is a journey that mixes fear, boredom and extreme loneliness. A journey that sometimes ends in joy, sometimes in despair and sometimes in death. Few people, except for the refugees themselves, ever get to see this reality.

In September 2012, I took a boat with 92 others to Australia. We never made it. Bad weather nearly sunk us, and we ran aground on the rocks. My camera was ruined but my images survived. After that, I was detained and robbed by Indonesian authorities. Then I escaped. In the end, I was one of the lucky ones.

Unlike most Hazaras, I was quickly found to be a refugee and resettled in Melbourne. In the meantime, I kept taking photos. My work was published by The Global Mail and SBS Dateline.

Some of the people I met along the way never survived to reach safety in Australia, or anywhere else. My hope is that, at the very least, these pictures can tell their story.

Photo Essay

Take a look at Batoor's photo essay, which is a finalist in this year's Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism. The images were originally published in The Global Mail.

Hussain Dad - Hussain Dad was left permanently disabled after he was injured when a suicide bomber attacked the procession of Ashura in Quetta in 2003. More than 50 people were killed and 100 injured in the attack.

Nadir Ali-Nadir - Ali was injured when a van he was in was ambushed by terrorists on July 30, 2011 in Quetta, Pakistan. Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, claimed responsibility. Due to serious injuries, he died later on April 4, 2012.

Thai People Smugglers - A Thai people smuggler shouts over to asylum seekers waiting to take a boat across the border to Malaysia - from there they will travel to Kuala Lumpur. This part of the journey costs $1,000.

Instructions for Escape - Asylum seekers listen to the instructions of the smuggler in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia before taking the boat to Indonesia.

Paying Up - After a four hour boat journey from Kuala Lumpur to Indonesia, the 16 asylum seekers are taken to rest. There they pay the next people smuggler $2,500 each for the next leg of the journey to get them to Jakarta.

The Jaffary Family Waits – 'We wake up each day hoping this will be the last morning," says mother Rukhsana Jaffary of her mixed Afghan-Pakistani Hazara family, claiming asylum in Indonesia.

The Night Journey - After receiving a call at midnight to say their boat is ready, the passengers have their phones confiscated and are taken to a large boat anchored at sea which they hope will take them to Christmas Island, Australia.

The First Day at Sea - With 93 passengers hidden below deck so as not to be seen by the water police, they take it in turns to come up for fresh air on the first day at sea. This photo has already won the Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year Award.

Preparing for the Worst - After a terrifying night at sea in the sinking boat, the sun comes up and the passengers prepare for the worst: that they may end up drowning in the ocean.

Troubled Waters - On the second day the boat is in trouble, taking on water - the passengers frantically wave their life jackets hoping to attract the attention of other boats.

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