Sunday 30th April

The lights of Port Sudan twinkle on the horizon.

It’s the middle of the night and we are approaching the docks in a tugboat, bouncing around and dodging the occasional wave that crests the hull.

I am traveling light – camera and run bag only. We will have just a few minutes on the ground.

As we scramble ashore, a small crowd of people begins to move towards us, exhausted but elated to be leaving Sudan.

There are few lights and I am thankful for the low-light capability of my Sony A7S camera.

Clambering from the Tugboat back onto the Navy corvette.

The group is mainly men – Pakistani and Nepali mostly. The majority were robbed during their journey out of Khartoum and now have little to show for their years of working in the country.

I greet them with a smile. My Urdu skills are rusty but I can still get by. Soon, in the rush to get aboard, we find Muhammed Ali, a stocky, bearded man with an earnest face and gentle eyes wet with tears.

I immediately realise that he is our main character, the human face of this story.

He tells us of his journey – the fear, the desperation to escape. He has left everything behind, including his house and his car. He seems relieved to tell his story, finally relaxing, knowing that he is safe and on his way home.

The tug boat heads back out to sea where we rendezvous with the Saudi Arabian Navy corvette. It’s a tough job to pull the two ships side-by-side. There is a lot of shouting and gesticulating.

The waves have become bigger, the tug boat rolling, people stumbling.

A rope ladder is thrown from the Helicopter deck of the Navy ship and one by one we all begin the terrifying climb from one boat to the other. I hand my camera to a marine while two others grab my arms and pull me aboard.

Muhammed and I safely onboard. He can finally relax.

Muhammed is just behind me and I swing around to film him as he clambers onto the deck.

Soon Muhammed and his friends are sleeping. For now, their ordeal is over.

I fetch my laptop, despite the constant noise on the boat, lack of sleep and the increasing sea-sickness we have to edit. Muhammed’s story must be told.


Thanks to the excellent team I worked with on this story, including Andrew Harding, Kyla Herrmannsen and Marcus Buckley. As always, it was an honour.

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