Border Vigils is a powerful work of reportage, combining analysis of the politics of migration with first hand accounts of the people struggling to survive as they are faced with anti-immigration zealots.
In recent years, the economic slump has made immigration even more politically sensitive than during more confident eras. His underlying stance is liberal: broadly supportive of the migrants, highlighting the human cost when their desires are blocked. But as a longstanding writer on the ambiguous relationships between rich and poor countries, he is too streetwise to be pious. He is alert to the complexities of a world where refugees and economic migrants are not always easy to tell apart – even in the minds of the immigrants themselves – and where the same traffickers smuggle people, willing and not, and other illegal cargoes. "Nothing in the world of unauthorised migration," he writes early on, "is quite what it seems."
Beckett responds to Harding's perspective ("[r]efreshingly for a liberal...") considering it ambitious but determined:
it's probably less far-fetched than expecting the west's half-built anti-migrant fortress to hold for the long term. Besides, by then, the immigration issue may have changed shape entirely. Harding quotes the Dutch migration expert Hein de Hass: when western countries are genuinely caught up by the big emerging economies, the "question will no longer be how to prevent migrants from coming, but how to attract them." Nothing reveals that a city is dying like a lack of foreigners.
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