Part of The Best Books of 2012 on Western Europe

Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent

Contrary to nativist alarmism, Europe is not flooded with immigrants, Muslim or otherwise. In fact, the disappearance of internal border checks within most of the European Union, domestic political pressure to restrict immigration, and heightened concerns about security during the past decade have led the countries on Europe’s edges to seal their borders more tightly. Carr argues that this combination of internal liberalization and external hardening has increased criminal, abusive, and often deadly human trafficking, while only modestly reducing immigration. The unique virtue of the book lies in Carr’s reporting from the brutal frontiers of the new Europe: Ukrainian border towns where illegal trafficking thrives, Spanish territories in Morocco where would-be immigrants are shot dead or left to die in the Sahara after attempting to scale razor-wire fences, Italian and Maltese islands where overfilled boatloads of Africans drown by the hundreds. One can understand why Carr sympathizes with these outsiders, but his advocacy is sometimes overwrought. Criticizing European leaders as fascist or racist sometimes obscures his more measured proposals for temporary work arrangements, pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, nuanced changes in visa requirements, respect for basic human rights, and solutions to Europe’s demographic deficit.

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