Fortress Europe

Inside the War Against Immigration

November 2015 9781849046275 320pp


When the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, a euphoric continent hailed the advent of a new ‘borderless’ Europe in which such barriers would become obsolete. More than twenty-five years later, in the midst of the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, European governments have enacted the most sustained and far-reaching border enforcement programme in history. Detention and deportation, physical and bureaucratic barriers, naval patrols and satellite technologies: all these have been part of Europe’s undeclared ‘war’ against undocumented immigration.

These efforts have generated a tragic confrontation between some of the richest countries in the world and a stateless population from the poorest. The human consequences of that confrontation have become impossible to ignore, as migrants drown in unprecedented numbers in the Mediterranean or find themselves trapped in chokepoints like Calais, Hungary and Greece. As Europe’s leaders argue among themselves, the continent’s ‘hard borders’ are breaking down and it is increasingly unclear what will replace them.

Fortress Europe, published here in a revised and updated edition, is an urgent investigation into Europe’s militarised borders. In a series of searing dispatches, Carr speaks to border officers and police, officials, migrants, asylum-seekers and activists from across the continent in a unique and ground-breaking critique of an epic political, institutional and humanitarian failure that now threatens the future of the European Union itself.


Table of contents

Introduction: Incidents on the Border


1. A Gated Continent
2. Postcards from Schengenland
3. Policing the Spanish Frontier
4. Mare Schengen
5. The Greek Labyrinth
6. Small Island: British Borders
7. The Internal Border


8. Difficult Journeys
9. Traffic
10. Hands Across the Border
11. Blurred Edges: Europe’s Borderlands
12. The Western Borders

Epilogue: Beyond the Borders

Postcript: Towards Barbarism


Fortress Europe shines a light on Europe’s hidden war against immigration, whose devastating human cost is often ignored. Through powerful first-hand reporting from the front lines, Matthew Carr reminds us that migrants are not barbarians at the gates but human beings who, like us, aspire to a better life.’ — Philippe Legrain, author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them

‘A new book which captures the unravelling of the EU’s liberal dream … [Carr] seeks to remind us that migrants are not barbarians at the gate but human beings who, like us, aspire to a better life. He also highlights the spread of criminal, abusive, exploitative, and human trafficking.’ — Irish Examiner

‘Carr argues that a combination of internal liberalisation and external hardening has increased criminal, abusive, and often deadly human trafficking, while only modestly reducing immigration. The unique virtue of his book lies in its 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.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘Carr travels to the remote borderlands of Poland, Spain, Greece, and Malta; Schengen-bordering countries like Turkey and Morocco that collaborate in enforcement; and the heart of western Europe and Britain to meet immigrants stuck in remote detention centers or “living rough” on city streets for years … But he also depicts ordinary Europeans who have gone to great lengths to help these stranded travelers. This disturbing but hopeful book humanizes the face of 21st-century immigration.’ — Publishers Weekly

‘Carr explores the seedy underbelly of the Schengen Area’s open-borders policy, highlighting the paradoxes and injustices … While Carr’s sympathies are clear … 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.”’ — Kirkus Reviews

‘An eye-opening journey around the periphery of Europe, observing humanity on the move and injustice in action. … A gripping, troubling, shocking account.’ — Philippe Sands, QC, author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values

‘Sane and lucid, these dispatches from Europe’s increasingly militarised borders expose a human rights disaster unfolding in our midst. Matthew Carr brings humanity and a measured sense of history to a subject more often marked by hypocrisy and hysteria.’ — Maya Jaggi, critic and cultural journalist

‘With a relentless blade, Matthew Carr’s Fortress Europe exposes layer after layer of the dark side of the new Europe: the proliferation of militarised borders, brutal camps for immigrants and asylum seekers, and a burgeoning racism and xenophobia. This is a crucial book for anyone seeking to understand how dreams of unfettered personal freedom and mobility for all transformed into a Europe dominated by ranks of gates, cordons, biometrics and camps.’ — Professor Stephen Graham, Newcastle University

Fortress Europe gives depth to European border issues by combining historical and political analysis with multi-sited empirical research, and most importantly by raising the voices of irregular migrants. […] With its eye-opening depictions, strong moral position and thought-provoking proposals, there is no doubt that this book will appeal to a broad public, nurturing critical discussions about border-related policies and practices and the future of the “gated continent”.’ — Council For European Studies, Columbia University

‘A brilliant, richly informative, thought-provoking read … Fortress Europe stands out from other works on the same subject by its depth, building to its beautifully crafted finale in which Carr shows how borders are also bridges, because it is there that “linguistic, religious and ethnic categories merge.” Journalist by profession, Carr is a historian at heart. His book broadens our horizons by reminding us that it is in the borderlands and not the borders, that our future lies. Exceptional.’ — Liz Fekete, Director of the Institute of Race Relations

‘Matthew Carr’s Fortress Europe is a powerful indictment of the inhumanity of the EU’s policies towards refugees…it is a brilliantly researched book, rich in compassion and humanity.’ — Counterfire


Matthew Carr is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Observer, The Guardian, The New York Times and on BBC Radio. He is the author of The Infernal Machine: An Alternative History of Terrorism; Fortress Europe: Inside the War Against Immigration; and The Devils of Cardona.


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