The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis. By P. KINGSLEY


The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis. By P. KINGSLEY

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Cite as: Kingsley, P., 2016, The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis. London: Guardian Faber Publishing.

Europe is facing a wave of migration unmatched since the end of World War II - and no one has reported on this crisis in more depth or breadth than the Guardian's migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley. Throughout 2015, Kingsley travelled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach the holy grail of Europe.

This is Kingsley's unparalleled account of who these voyagers are. It's about why they keep coming, and how they do it. It's about the smugglers who help them on their way, and the coastguards who rescue them at the other end. The volunteers that feed them, the hoteliers that house them, and the border guards trying to keep them out. And the politicians looking the other way.

The New Odyssey is a work of original, bold reporting written with a perfect mix of compassion and authority by the journalist who knows the subject better than any other.

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Review: Patrick Kingsley’s “The New Odyssey” is a vital book about migration in the 21st century | Medium |16 Jun 2016 |

By Oliver Franklin-Wallis

here’s a note at the end of Patrick Kingsley’s The New Odyssey that perfectly encapsulates the absurdity and tragedy of the refugee crisis gripping Europe in 2016. In the opening chapter, Hashem Al-Souki, the Syrian whose quest for a better life in Sweden Kingsley chronicles, is floating in the Mediterranean on an overcrowded dinghy, praying to reach the Italian coast. While Kingsley vividly reconstructs the journey — you can feel the boat rocking, smell the stench of vomit and hear the cries of anguish — he is not on board. Instead, he notes, the scene is a reconstruction; when Kingsley knew Al-Souki had made it, he simply flew, passport in hand, from Egypt to meet him. That short flight, he notes, was “an almost farcical privilege”.

The Guardian’s Migration correspondent, Kingsley reported from 17 countries in the process of reporting The New Odyssey. There are few journalists around who have covered the crisis with the depth and passion that he has over the past two years. (He also turned it around at breakneck speed; reporting late into the autumn of 2015.)

The book skilfully weaves together Al-Souki’s story with those of dozens of migrants — from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Eritrea, and beyond — as they cross oceans, walk countless miles through fields and forests, and hide on trains and sleep in stations, in the search for a better life. Their stories, Kingsley writes, cast the mind back to Greek antiquity in their scope and tragedy. But instead they’re happening every hour of every day, right now.

Kingsley is a tireless reporter and a skilful writer; The New Odyssey ties together the stories of each migrant, compiled over what must have been hundreds of interviews, with clarity and sincerity. His prose is moving but never maudlin. Too often migrants are lumped together by politicians and the public as they are in the smugglers’ boats off the coasts of Lesvos; here, they stand out vividly on the page. At the same time, Kingsley meets every part of the migration debate: smugglers in Libya, aid workers aboard rescue boats and beaches, and politicians of various nations.

In doing so, he builds an eloquent and utterly comprehensive argument: that the EU’s policies on migration are inhumane, discriminatory, and ultimately doomed to fail. Make your threats, build your walls; when the people you’re trying to shut out are fleeing bombshells or life imprisonment, carrying what remains of their lives with them, you are not going to keep them out. Instead, he argues, the only logical — not to mention ethical — thing to do is to remake our laws to resettle migrants in an orderly and safe way. Only then will the boats carrying toddlers like Alan Kurdi fall in their numbers.

In the month that the UK will vote on whether to leave the European Union — a debate driven mostly by arguments over immigration — The New Odyssey could not have come at a more urgent time. One only wishes that the politicians who want to build walls read it, and realise that were it not for the passport in their hand, they could be in their boat, too.