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Frontier Justice is a gripping, eye-opening exploration of the world-wide refugee crisis. Combining reporting, history and political philosophy, Andy Lamey sets out to explain the story behind the radical increase in the global number of asylum-seekers, and the effects of North America and Europe’s increasing unwillingness to admit them.
He follows the extraordinary efforts of a set of Yale law students who sued the U.S. government on behalf of a group of refugees imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay; he recounts one refugee family's harrowing journey from Saddam Hussein's Iraq to contemporary Australia via the world's most dangerous ocean crossing; and he explores the fascinating case of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millennium bomber who filed a refugee claim in Canada before attempting to blow up the Los Angeles airport. Lamey casts new light on a host of broader subjects, from the reasons why terrorists who pose as refugees have an overwhelming failure rate to the hidden benefits of multiculturalism.
Throughout Lamey's account, he focuses on the rights of people in search of asylum, and how those rights are routinely violated. But Frontier Justice does not merely point out problems. This book offers a bold case for an original solution to the international asylum crisis, one which draws upon Canada's unique approach to asylum-seekers. At the centre of the book is a new blueprint for how the rights of refugees might be enforced, and a vision of human rights that is ultimately optimistic and deeply affirmative.
In exploring one of the most pressing questions of our age, Lamey provides an absorbing and unsettling look at a world in which, as he notes, there are many rights for citizens, few for human beings.
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Andy Lamey is a Canadian journalist and academic. His writing has appeared in The National Post, Maclean's, The Walrus, and he has produced several radio documentaries for CBC's Ideas programme.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In March of 1933, German politicians voted to grant their new chancellor, Adolf Hitler, the power to govern with impunity. Members of the Nazi party physically attacked parliamentarians before the vote to influence its outcome, but this terror campaign, it soon turned out, was nothing next to what would follow. It was suddenly normal for critics of the government to be beaten in the street. The most outspoken anti-Nazi activists became the first victims of the newly established concentration camp system, at the same time as anti-Semitic decrees expelled Jews from the civil service and other positions. In response to the wave of persecution, thousands of people began to flee the country. Among them were a young Jewish woman and her mother, who, shortly after the initial anti-Jewish laws were passed, left their home in Berlin for the last time.
The frightened women made their way south to the Erzgebirge mountain range, which marked Germany’s frontier with Czechoslovakia. Neither one had a passport or visa. They were familiar, however, with a German exile group in Prague, which had set up a network of safe houses for escaping Jews and leftists. Armed with this knowledge, the two Berliners went to the mountain town of Carlsbad, where they sought out a kindhearted family who could provide them with a simple yet invaluable means of avoiding the border patrol: the house they lived in had its front door in Germany and its back door in Czechoslovakia. The two fugitives were taken in by their benefactors while it was light out, offered dinner, and released into the night. When their feet touched Czech soil, two things happened. They became refugees. And they set in motion a major episode in the history of human rights.
The escaping Jews were Hannah Arendt, then twenty-six, and her mother, Martha Beerwald. Why was their flight from fascism so remarkable? The answer has to do with Hannah Arendt’s later transformation into one of the great political thinkers of the twentieth century. Arendt’s philosophy was influenced by her experience as a refugee. So perhaps the best place to start in understanding Hannah Arendt, and seeing what we can learn from her about human rights, is by retracing the steps of her journey. As we will see, it is a journey that has much in common with that of refugees even today.
Arendt did not stay long in Czechoslovakia. After sending her mother to the relative safety of East Prussia (from where she would again flee the Nazis five years later), Arendt continued on to Switzerland and then to France, where she was reunited with her husband. Günther Stern, a communist and friend of the famous playwright Bertolt Brecht, had fled Germany several months in advance of his wife and mother-in-law. He was prompted to do so after Brecht had an address book confiscated by the Gestapo, which Stern feared would shortly result in the arrest of everyone whose name it contained. Now, in Paris, he and his wife were part of a wave of twenty-five thousand German refugees, 85 percent of them Jewish, who had poured into France, a greater number than that received by any other country.
Arendt’s exile in Paris was not a happy time. Even before they became refugees, she and her husband had many differences. When it came to politics, for example, she never shared his commitment to communism. (Before the Nazis came to power, in fact, she was barely interest in politics at all, and always dated her political awakening to the rise of Hitler.) Now Arendt and her husband had little to unite them save the hardscrabble urgencies of refugee existence. When Stern left Paris for New York in 1936, his marriage to Arendt had long been over in all but name. Things were hardly better for Arendt on a political level. The arrival of the German refugees, even though they represented a minuscule portion of France’s population, was regarded in France as a major crisis. To be sure, there were people who spoke out on the refugees’ behalf. They included not only French Jews but Socialists, liberals, left-wing Catholics and a few stray conservatives. But throughout the 1930s, these partisans of “hospitality,” to use the term they most frequently invoked, had to engage in a fierce political battle with conservative and centre-left politicians, rank-and-file union members (union leaders tended to be pro-refugee) and business groups, all of whom filled the air with cries of “France for the French!” and denounced the Jews as economic parasites and “undesirables.”
France’s refugee crisis came to a head at the end of the decade. By this point Arendt’s personal situation had improved somewhat: she was employed by a French Jewish charity and had managed to have her mother join her from Prussia. There was even a new man in her life, another German (albeit non-Jewish) refugee named Heinrich Blücher. But after Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938, which sent another wave of desperate Jews into France, the political situation of every refugee in Paris deteriorated. France introduced repressive laws making admission much more difficult. Jews who were already present were barred from holding certain jobs or were sent back to Germany. Others were turned away at the border. A mood of despair spread through the Jewish community, and many refugees chose suicide. After a Polish Jew living in Paris shot a German embassy official, the Nazis responded with Kristallnacht—the night of broken glass— burning and looting Jewish homes, shops and synagogues across Germany. Anti-refugee voices in France were already alleging a Jewish conspiracy to drag France into a needless war with Germany; Kristallnacht, perversely, was taken as evidence for this view and resulted in calls for harsh reprisals against refugees. Paris’s Jews lived in terror of what would happen next.
The answer came in the fall of 1939. Hostilities between France and Germany had now formally begun (albeit in the form of the phony war, before the bombs began to fall), and France ordered that all German men with suspicious political backgrounds be interned. It didn’t matter that Heinrich Blücher and thousands of others had fled Germany precisely because they were Communists, and so would be the last people on earth to engage in pro-Nazi activities. Blücher was sent to a labour camp in a small French village, sleeping with two dozen other men in a barn that left them exposed to the constant cold rain, where he soon became ill.
Through desperate lobbying, Arendt managed to secure Blücher’s release (a friend of hers tracked down the widow of a police prefect who agreed to serve as his guarantor). When Blücher returned to Paris he and Arendt married. But instead of a honeymoon, they had to contend with a new internment order—one that now included most German women. Four months after their wedding, Arendt and her husband reported to separate sports stadiums in Paris. Arendt was made to sleep on the stone bleachers of the Winter Velodrome alongside other Jewish women branded “enemy aliens.” Every time a plane passed overhead they feared it was a German bomber come to end their lives. Finally, after a week, Arendt and the other female refugees were taken to a camp near Gurs, a town in southwest France. Constant rains had turned the camp into a muddy swamp. Although inmates were not forced to work, the residents kept themselves busy emptying the latrines and engaging in other chores to stave off depression.
During her internment, with the war situation growing worse, and not knowing whether she would ever see her husband again, Arendt was overcome with thoughts of killing herself. It was something many other camp residents considered. At one point, there was talk among the refugees of committing suicide en masse, as a form of protest against the way they had been treated by the French government. But the inmates soon decided that this would only please their captors. As Arendt later wrote, “When some of us suggested that we had been shipped there pour crever [to be snuffed out] in any case, the general mood turned suddenly into a violent courage of life.”
Several weeks after Arendt’s arrival in Gurs, German troops invaded Paris. All communications broke down and the camp descended into chaos. Many women decided to stay, afraid to leave the one place their husbands would at least know to look for them. When Gurs later came under the jurisdiction of the collaborationist Vichy government, most of these inmates were handed over to the Nazis for extermination. Arendt was lucky: she had somewhere she could go. The same Paris friend who had secured Heinrich Blücher’s release, a wealthy German exile, was renting a house near the southern French town of Montauban. Arendt could reach it by travelling on foot and hitchhiking. Montauban was in total confusion when Arendt arrived. Many homes had been left empty in the panic of war, and the mayor had chosen to express his opposition to the new Vichy government in northern France by turning empty buildings over to former internees. As a result, thousands of refugees were streaming into Montauban from all across France. They slept on empty floors, dragging in every mattress they could find, creating conditions almost as crowded and cramped as in the camps they had just escaped.
It was against this backdrop that Hannah Arendt had one of the happiest experiences of her life. One day she found herself on the main avenue of Montauban. There, amid piles of mattresses, furniture and garbage, she saw her husband walking down the street. Blücher’s camp had been evacuated when the Nazis took Paris, and he had joined the great migration of people—travelling on bicycles, in the backs of trucks, on foot with everything they could carry—streaming into unoccupied southern France. Surrounded by crowds of refugees scavenging for scraps of food and tobacco, others seeking word of missing lo...
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Book Description Doubleday Canada, 2011. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110385662548