By Nicola Ginsburgh
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Fortress Europe

This article is over 9 years, 2 months old
Matthew Carr
Issue 374

From 1988 to 2011 at least 15,551 migrants died trying to reach Europe. They suffocated, drowned and froze to death in attempts to cross militarised borders reinforced by police, soldiers, and naval patrols armed with hi-tech weaponry and detection systems. Matthew Carr’s Fortress Europe exposes the racism and brutality that are the result of immigration border controls. He details the treacherous routes taken by migrants in order to evade detection, the squalid prison-like detention centres in which they are held, and the relentless harassment they face at the hands of some of the most affluent states in the world.

Carr draws out the contradictions at the heart of the EU’s border controls, highlighting the incongruity of the EU’s actions towards migrants alongside its self-professed dedication to human rights and ideals of freedom and unity. Human rights, it seems, are neither universal nor incontrovertible when they come into conflict with the priorities of EU states.

Carr shows how, contrary to dominant narratives, Europe overwhelmingly benefits from immigration. Only a minority, he argues, are benefiting from the current draconian immigration laws: security companies such as Serco and G4S and the employers who force migrants to work incredibly long hours for very low pay without any basic rights.

On occasion employers have refused to pay their migrant workforces altogether, instead calling immigration officials to have them deported after they have fulfilled the required tasks.

These immigration controls are made acceptable not only because their consequences are largely kept from public view, but because of the assault upon migrants from the media and politicians who propagate the image of overburdened welfare states and the disingenuous “bogus” asylum seeker. Terrorism, the protection of the indigenous labour force, and the maintenance of “national identity” are interchangeably used as justifications for curtailing the movement and freedom of migrants, and simultaneously fuel the far-right’s legitimacy and confidence to embark on pogroms and enact violence against racial minorities.

Yet Carr shows how migrants are not just passive wanderers who get caught in a system of repression; migrants have withdrawn their labour, rioted in detention centres, gone on hunger strike and self-immolated in protest against their conditions. Carr’s interviews with migrants and the ordinary Europeans who help them provide valuable insights into the horrifying consequences of the current European immigration policy and help to break down assumptions and stereotypes of migrants.

Described as criminals, prostitutes, scroungers and fakes, or presented as inflated statistics in allusions to the million-strong hordes waiting deviously in the shadows to engulf Europe and destroy its “civilisation”, Fortress Europe focuses upon those voices that are usually drowned out by the shrill xenophobic cries of politicians and the media. It provides strong evidence against immigration controls, revealing the suffering and inhumanity their existence entails.

Fortress Europe is published by Hurst £20

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