Lights in the distance
Exile and refuge at the borders of Europe
Daniel trilling
Verso books

I have been going through a bad time for the past 12 months. When my father died last February I was 49. I had a lifetime of memories of him. A life of sporting events we travelled together to. A lifetime of conversations, of assistance when I needed it and a lifetime of financial support. I felt lucky to have such a man in my life, and even more blessed to still have my mam as support for all my crazy whims. I have a memory of youth sharing weekly bath water with older brothers (and being the youngest meant going last). I remember a time when cream cake or ice cream was a Sunday treat. I remember when there was a build of butter in the eu and one weekend it was sold off cheap. Myself and my brothers visited all the local shops to buy our allocated 2 pounds of butter as the family saved a few pence on each one. I remember my first trip in a taxi. I was probably 16, after being at the dentist and there was no direct bus home. These are memories of a different era for many in Dublin. And as the generations extend the hardships multiply. Mine were certainly not hardships but I realize I am extremely lucky, only due to my place of birth. Others, by virtue of their parents, whilst still having the joy of family are not so lucky.

Put quite starkly, being a refugee means not being killed.

Some facts – as a proportion of the worlds population the number of international migrants has stayed relatively steady: roughly 3%, since 1960

  • in 1990 20 countries had walls our fences in their borders, that number is now 70
  • the worlds largest refugee camp is in Dadaab, eastern Kenya. It is home to 300,000 people
  • 90% of migration into Europe is legal, 9 out of 10 who enter Europe do so with permission.
  • In 1990
  • Between 2007 and 2013 the eu spent 2 billion euro on fences, surveillance systems and patrols and 700 million on reception conditions for refugees
  • 65 million living people have been displaced by war in the world today, 22 million of these have had to flee their countries
  • 86% of refugees are hosted in poorer countries
    500 million people live in Europe, in 2015 at its peak 1 million people sought refuge in Europe. This book asks is it a border crisis rather than a refugee one that is being faced.

This is not a book about facts though, it’s about real people. There names may not be what would have appeared on a birth certificate but the author has told a number of life stories here with sadness, despair and a little hope clamoring for attention on each page. It’s the desperation of the tales that I find alarming. I will never get used to reading how people are kidnapped and trafficked, or the measures they will go to to avail war. A choice between taking a breath or not. And yet many feel this is not their issue!!

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