This book is a reaction to how ‘migrants crisis’ is presented in the media. Helene Thiollet together with other researchers takes a look at our common perceptions about migrations and tries to scientifically prove or disprove them. The book is organized around 50 questions, answers to those form separate chapters, the Polish edition of this book also includes additional five questions specifically related to Polish migrants and the questions of migrations to Poland. I’ll just list here the first three questions to give you the idea of the structure of this book: Is there more migrants in the world now? Do people migrate from poor countries to rich ones? Do all refugees come to Europe (and US)?
As you can see Thiollet and team test the assumptions we take for granted. The answers are very interesting, for example the book made me realize that Europe took in only 10% of refugees from Syria, majority of them fled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. In general it appears that people fleeing from conflicts tend to go to the neighbouring countries in hope of returning home when the conflict ends, rather than embark on the long and dangerous journey to Europe. One of the chapters analyses how the definition of refugee has been created and how it does not cover people fleeing from natural disasters or economic violence. Another eye opening thing was the fact that to apply for asylum one has to enter the country illegally, there is no other way with the current legal systems, you have to commit an offence to apply to legalize your status.
Yet another enlightening chapter spoke about the introduction of passports and the border controls as we know them now, I somehow always took it for granted that it’s always been this way, which of course is not the case. The obligation to carry passport has been introduced during WWI, it was supposed to be removed after the war, but before anyone got round to it WWII happened, the last try to work towards removing this obligation has been in 1960’s. So when you think of it passports and border controls are a really new thing.
The book also discusses how the migrants integrate, whether the issue of taking migrants in is a moral, humanitarian or political problem, if the migration is a benefit or a threat, do the stricter laws actually work and decrease migration and if migration really a bad thing that should be limited? The scope of the book is very wide and the subject matter, of course, very current. One thing I do regret is that because the book is written by academics it is pretty dry. It’s not a book that will convert the masses, it’s to reasonable for that. Which is a pity, because as it stands now it preaches to the choir. I really think there should be a complimentary book written by someone who is really royally furious with the situation and then uses the facts as a weapon in emotional argumentation, only then there is a chance of wider audience picking it up. All in all a very needed book that achieves what it set out to do, to deal with myths and misconceptions about migration, but will not gain wider audience.
After this book I read The Optician of Lampedusa and together those two books resonated very well, one being facts and the other being emotions, forming a complete set.