New Borders: Hotspots and the European Migration Regime is a multi-authored work that explores the importance of “hotspots” within ever-evolving European Union (EU) policies that are meant to control and maintain borders in the face of massive immigration from the Middle East. A part of the Radical Geography series from Pluto Press, the essays employ social theories as diverse as biopolitics and neoliberal state power to question the hotspot approach as it has been used to regulate Islamic immigrants at the Turkey-Greece border and the islands of the Aegean Sea. New Borders explores the many contours of the immigration crisis and the prejudicial use of the language of humanitarian urgency. Aimed at a general audience, the authors nonetheless provide an analysis suitable for an academic audience.
The essays focus on the Greek islands at the center of the European refugee crisis, especially after the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Drawing on their two-year research project on the island of Lesbos, the authors came to understand that how the new EU policies have altered the meaning of “asylum” and “refugee” in order to facilitate control over the situation.
The first chapter outlines the conditions on Lesbos through a broad reading of European policies related to the current refugee crisis and the intensification of migration across the Mediterranean Sea. This chapter provides background information, while the second chapter outlines a history of refugees and the various meanings of the concept of asylum. The analysis focuses on the conceptual development of human rights during the Enlightenment and modern concern with refoulment, or the return of refugees to their point of origin.
The authors’ summary of the transformation of religious asylum into later concepts of political asylum accompanies a discussion of the United Nations and the European Union during the late twentieth century, while also focusing on the lack of enforcement measures. The question of who should be granted asylum is currently governed by the 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam, the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), made effective in 2015, and the European Asylum Support Office that is responsible for implementation of CEAS.
The third chapter focuses on changes to these rules and requirements imposed by the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement. The agreement spells out the policies to be used regarding the granting of asylum or refoulment of refugees across the Grecian border to Turkey or their home nation. The authors compare the agreement with the more liberal immigration requirements of the earlier period. The penultimate chapter on the refugee camps on Lesbos explores the political response to the refugee crisis. Interviews and examinations of the refugees created a rhetoric of us versus them that found confirmation in the EU-Turkey agreement and well-intentioned humanitarian organizations.
The final chapter of New Borders explores how the lack of permanent regulations and rules for immigrants during a refugee crisis ultimately contributes to a situation of control and divide, rather than unequivocally assisting refugee populations. The chapter compares the history of Jewish populations in Renaissance Venice, the rejection of Jewish refugees from the United States during World War II, and the recent refugee crisis in Greece. Refugees are subject to a randomness and insecurity the leaves them entirely vulnerable to the power, sovereignty, and control of individual states.
The authors of New Borders offer some suggestions in the last chapter. Overall, the book provides a quick and engaging analysis of the humanitarian crisis and new patterns of governmentality that threaten not only refugee populations but also the general neoliberal belief in political sovereignty, asylum privileges, and private property as fundamental rights for modern societies. As such, New Borders should be read by scholars of the current refugee crises and the intellectually engaged public concerned with the refugee crisis and the new discourses of control that are at odds with the idealistic images that the European Union proclaims for itself and the world.