As the number of people displaced by conflict worldwide rises to its highest level since the Second World War, an unprecedented number of refugees suffer hardship, abuse and even death as they try to reach a continent that presents itself as a beacon of human rights. Why is this happening?
For several years, Daniel Trilling has criss-crossed Fortress Europe, following the journeys of refugees. The Lights in the Distance take readers through six “borderlands’—areas of Europe where the refugee crisis is at its most acute. Moving through places where Europe’s history of conflict, nationalism, and conquest is never far from the surface, he explains how the present crisis is driven by racism and fear of the “illegal” immigrant; how Europeans came to fool themselves that Europe could ever really be a “fortress” cut off from the world around it; and how the growth of systems designed to control and deter refugees is leading to disaster. Borderlands are, by their nature, places of division but also of encounter: the ways in which refugees and their local supporters form networks of resistance to change their conditions resonate with Europe’s history and raise questions about its future. Can the promise of open borders ever be more than a dream?