State boundaries affect human rights. For migrants, they represent the barrier between war and destitution, and the opportunity to begin a new life.
Crossing the border, or being prevented from doing so, determines the prospects and reality of those seeking a future free from violence and crippling poverty. But fences have been erected at various crossing points in the Balkans and south-west Europe. Border control is tightening, with the EU/Turkey deal allowing migrants in Greece to be sent back to Turkey, in a move highly criticised for its political and legal flaws. The new rules are also likely to further increase the traffic on the perilous southern Mediterranean route into Sicily, a tacit acceptance by European authorities that many more lives will be lost and scarred in the crossing.
But who are these people? And what are their individual stories? In The Quality of Mercy reviewed by Judith Vonberg, German journalist Wolfgang Bauer and Czech photographer Stanislav Krupař joined a group of Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe from Egypt. Bauer and Krupař shared the refugees’ experiences – kidnappings and arrests, detainment and deportation, perilous boat journeys and border crossings – and documented them in a vital piece of journalism.
Activism and protest movements also travel across borders. At the same time, efforts to silence those voices can quite easily circumvent state boundaries. Taking readers on a political journey between Indonesia, West Papua and Australia, Connor Woodman argues that harassment of advocates of independence of West Papua by the Indonesian police and army do not stop at Indonesia’s borders. In Silencing West Papuan independence supporters overseas he explores the reach of Indonesia’s effort to thwart the independence movement of its troubled Papuan provinces, spreading all the way to Australia’s urban heartlands. In a concerted attempt to undermine the overseas independence campaign, Indonesian agents are also targeting West Papuans and Australian citizens residing in Melbourne.