A mother puts her children into a refrigerator truck and asks, “What else could I do?” A runaway teenager comes of age on the streets, sleeping in abandoned buildings. A student leaves his war-ravaged country behind because he doesn’t want to kill. Everyone among the thousands of people who come to Europe in search of asylum each year possesses a unique story. But those stories don’t end as they cross into the West.
In Lights in the Distance, acclaimed journalist Daniel Trilling draws on years of reporting to build a portrait of the refugee crisis as seen through the eyes of the people who experienced it firsthand. As the European Union has grown, so has a tangled and often violent system designed to filter out unwanted migrants. Visiting camps and hostels, sneaking into detention centers, and delving into his own family’s history of displacement, Trilling weaves together the stories of people he met and followed from country to country. In doing so, he shows that the terms commonly used to define them—“refugee” or “economic migrant,” “legal” or “illegal,” “deserving” or “undeserving”—fall woefully short of capturing the complex realities.
The founding story of the EU is that it exists to ensure the horrors of the twentieth century are never repeated. Now, as it comes to terms with the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, its declared values of freedom, tolerance and respect for human rights are being put to the test. Lights in the Distance is a uniquely powerful and illuminating exploration of the nature and human dimensions of the crisis.