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Dispatches from a Gated Continent

by Matthew Carr

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59558-685-8
Publisher: New Press

Military patrols using live ammunition against unarmed men, women and children scaling barbed wire fences, captains dumping their human cargo in the sea after being detected by the navy: These are scenes not from North Korea or divided Berlin, but from the modern-day European Union.

While the global economy encourages the seamless transfer of goods and money around the world, and members of the international elite feel equally at home in Paris, New York, Dubai or Shanghai, those who have the misfortune of being born in the wrong place face ever higher barriers to their freedom of movement. Carr (Blood and Faith, 2011, etc.) explores the seedy underbelly of the Schengen Area’s open-borders policy, highlighting the paradoxes and injustices that become apparent once one realizes that the “new borderless European space has been dependent on a persistent hardening of Europe’s ‘external’ frontiers.” Employing a personable, readable style, the author shares vignettes from his extensive travels along Europe’s outer reaches, from the African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to the Greek archipelago to the Slovakian-Ukrainian border. He chronicles his interviews with migrants living off the grid in the Moroccan scrubland, Somalis living eight to a room in the factory cities of Eastern Europe, overtaxed border-patrol agents and harried psychologists at immigration detention centers (he was often forbidden from speaking to the inmates themselves, who are often held for years at a time, unable to work or study while their cases are being adjudicated). While Carr’s sympathies are clear, and his attempts to link restrictive immigration policies to the racist fringe of European politics are not entirely successful, his focus on the human consequences of global inequality transcends ideological distinctions.

An unflinching look inside “an extraordinarily elaborate and complex system of exclusion and control that is simultaneously ruthless, repressive, devious, chaotic, and dysfunctional.”