In 2013, Joel van Houdt and Luke Mogelson, an experienced reporter/photographer duo, embarked on a journey that has killed over 1,000 people since 2007. Joining 55 asylum-seekers from Indonesia, the two, undercover as Georgian refugees, traveled from Indonesia to Christmas Island, 200 miles across the Indian Ocean. Luckily, they made it, but for many others, the journey of desperation does not end with a new home.
This is the subtext to the plight of every refugee: Whatever hardship he endures, he endures because it beats the hardship he escaped. Every story of exile implies the sadder story of a homeland. Source.
The story followed the lengths, and costs, of the journey across the ocean, and “The Dream Boat” won The New York Times Magazine the National Magazine Awards Reporting prize in 2014. In a rare form of reporting, unseen in other news organizations, Mogelson give a voice to the voiceless, people whose stories are not regularly told in first person. The reader hears from multiple refugees along the way, from the start of the voyage—the payments, the lodgings, the back alley deals—to the three day trip, and learns about the refugee rights violations occurring in Australia, a first world country, today. Currently, “boat people” are diverted to Nauru and Papua New Guinea (if they aren’t turned away at sea), where they are held for weeks, even years, awaiting their application to be considered.
The long-form piece tells the story behind each refugee, and the story behind why they are refugees, putting the right to seek asylum, to leave one’s country, into focus. While the ethics of the reporters joining the mission do not strike me as completely sound, the story that they tell, the images they show, fully deserve the recognition they have received.