Matthew CarrFortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent

New Press, 2012

by Nicholas Walton on November 19, 2014

Matthew Carr

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From London to Rome, Paris to Stockholm, there is no other contemporary issue that can move the general public’s political needle quite so quickly as immigration. In the seas between Libya and Malta, Tunisia and Italy, hundreds risk the crossing to a presumably new and better life, and many of those hundreds lose their lives in doing so. Many more try to enter from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria, from Belarus and Ukraine to Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Latvia, and from Morocco up across the treacherous waters of the Gates of Hercules to Spain. Others crowd into internal pinch points within the EU, such as the port of Calais, just a few watery miles from the white cliffs of Dover.

Matthew Carr‘s excellent book – Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent (New Press, 2012) – is an attempt to make sense of this gigantic issue. He is a journalist, so there are compelling human stories involving those making the hopeful and often fateful journeys. There is also a comprehensive study of how the Union, in dissolving so many of its own internal borders, has systematically built up its external frontiers. The author makes the case that this has led to countless individual tragedies, but – perhaps more importantly – that such an attempt to counter flows of people either looking for better lives, escaping tyranny, or both, is futile and ultimately counter-productive.

Comprehensive solutions, whether technical or political, are unsurprisingly harder to identify. But that does not make this book any less compelling. Migration problems cannot be wished away, whatever the politicians say – the only real response is to understand the issue in all its humanity and all its complexity. That’s the value of this book.

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