The Left Must Put Refugees and Migration at the Heart of Its Politics
Mathew Carr rebukes Europe’s inhumane and fear-fueled response to the refugee crisis.
The current refugee crisis is the worst that Europe has seen since World War II, and in many countries, it remains in the political center stage. As Syrian and other refugees continue to flee to Europe to escape violence and destitution, the EU has struck a controversial new deal to stem the flow of asylum seekers. Public opinion on the issue remains sharply divided, with those expressing solidarity with refugees facing a re-energized, anti-migrant far right. Meanwhile, countless refugees remain trapped in detention camps or stuck behind borders, living in destitution.
To unpack the rhetoric and policy surrounding the crisis, I spoke with Matthew Carr, whose book Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent offers an in-depth look at the crisis as it has unfolded in Europe. The book, which was reissued with a new afterword by the New Press earlier this year, provides on-the-spot coverage of everything from Europe’s militarized borders in Eastern Europe and North Africa to the marginalization and criminalization of refugees within Europe. Throughout, he makes the case for showing solidarity with refugees and treating migration as a humanitarian issue instead of a question of border control.
Terror attacks in Europe, like the Brussels attacks in March, suggest to many that security is a very serious concern when it comes to the question of accommodating refugees. How do you think a humane response to the refugee crisis can address these concerns?
You’re actually dealing with a very real threat for sure, a lot of it coming from inside Europe. Many of the people that participated in the attacks that we’ve seen over the last few years are French, essentially—they’re not refugees. We have to separate these issues. We ought to accept the fact that it’s impossible for any country in the world, and certainly in Europe, to protect themselves entirely against these threats. Therefore to suggest that somehow, the refugee flows that we’ve seen increase over the last couple years represents an existential security threat is overdone, exaggerated, quite often deliberately designed to misrepresent the issue.
What a response to the refugee crisis should be, as a crisis—a crisis of people seeking sanctuary in Europe because they’re fleeing wars, violence, and so on—the solution to me is to create safe routes for those people to get into Europe. And in fact, if you’re talking in terms of security, having legal, safe routes allows you to get a far better idea of who is coming than if you don’t have them.
My interview for In These Times. You can read the rest here: