Bordered Lives:

How Europe Fails Refugees and Migrants

Bordered Lives documents the true story of the people who fled from persecution, conflict and abject poverty, risking their lives to cross the sea, only to find themselves trapped in a system that is not designed to offer them protection but to profit from them and keep them marginalised. 

More than 5,000 migrants lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean seas in 2016 - they were drowned, suffocated or crushed during the crossing. It's believed that many deaths were actually unrecorded, with bodies either disappearing or washing up on the shores of Libya. More than 25,000 migrants have died in their attempt to reach or stay in Europe since 2000. And by early September 2017, more than 2,000 people have lost their lives crossing the sea.

For the people who have made the journey across the sea and come into Europe, their next phase of degradation and misery has just begun. You see it in the asylum reception system across the frontline EU states, due to the lack of funding and the wholescale outsourcing and privatisation of asylum reception facilities. You see asylum-seeking migrants facing icy temperatures without shelters on the island of Lesbos as they were trapped in limbo, as a direct result of the EU-Turkey deal. You see migrants having nowhere to turn and sleeping rough in the streets, in the middle of "civilised" Western Europe.

Bordered Lives is the reporting of what we know as Europe's "refugee crisis" or "migrant crisis". Hsiao-Hung Pai spends time with migrants and asylum-seekers who have been rescued at sea and sent to Lampedusa and Sicily and have been absorbed into dismal reception camps. She also follows the journey of some of the people who have travelled north and ended up in Western Europe. Whilst the news headlines about the "refugee crisis" focus on people smuggling and encourage a far-right response to it, Pai finds the "crisis" to be one about Europe's response to the displaced people.

Published by New Internationalist, 2018 


"If we are living in a world that keeps creating refugees, and then rejecting those refugees, we have to honour writers such as Hsiao-Hung Pai for shining a light on this madness and refusing to look away."

                         - Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, writer and musician

"This deeply moving book takes us on a journey through Europe seen through the eyes of those experiencing its borders and camps. Searingly memorable, it confronts us with what we would prefer to ignore, and in so doing, makes us accountable."

                      - Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship, University of Bristol

"A devastating indictment of Europe's brutal treatment of migrants & refugees. Angry, compassionate, and committed reporting from one of the finest investigative journalists."

             - Matthew Carr, journalist and author of Fortress Europe

"What fascinates about this book is Hsiao-Hung' Pai's ability to weave incredibly emotional first-hand testimonies from refugees, with insightful investigative journalism"

         - James Bluemel, filmmaker and director of Exodus: Our Journey to Europe


Bordered Lives event at Edinburgh International Book Festival 

Event with Nayrouz Qarmout and Djamila Ribeiro, at Edinburgh International Book Festival 


Chinese edition of Bordered Lives, published by Homeward Publishing, 2019 

Research in Europe 2016-2017

Photography: Hsiao-Hung Pai & Dave Barkway

African street sellers in Naples 

Demonstration for basic rights

Gambian and Tunisian boys, Bologna

Visiting a camp in Corleone, Sicily

Top right: Corleone town from the hill top

Bottom right: daily meal inside a camp, Corleone

Below: Ballaro in Palermo

Right & below: Inside Centro Astalli, a shelter/camp in Palermo

Right: Hsiao-Hung taking notes before a train trip, Palermo

Below: Daily pasta meal inside a camp, Palermo

Below: Visiting a camp in St Giuseppe Jato, Sicily

Below & right: Lampedusa, the gate to Europe

Below: Inside the hotspot, Lampedusa

Right: Police vans on the way to the camp

Below: Passport control in Lampedusa

Below & right: Abandoned boats used in the journey across the Mediterranean 

'We are refugees, not terrorists", Rome

Below: In a Naples market

Below: Hsiao-Hung talking with boys from Bangladesh, CARA di Mineo camp, Sicily

photo by Dave Barkway
photo by Dave Barkway
Hsiao-Hung writing notes, Palermo station, photo by Dave Barkway
Hsiao-Hung writing notes, Palermo station, photo by Dave Barkway

Below: EU's Hotspot in Lampedusa

Below: Lampedusa's graveyard for the nameless people who died on their sea journey across the Mediterranean

Below: Lampedusans during the early 20th century / picture from Lampedusa's museum

Below: Lanière camp, Grande Synthe

Below: Hamid's shack inside Lanière camp, Grande Synthe (Hamid is not his real name)

Below: People getting caught in a lorry to Britain / Photo by Hamid (Not his real name)

Below: On the way to Lanière camp, Grande Synthe, France

Friends, inside Lanière 

Below: Children at Lanière camp

Below: Getting on a lorry to Britain / Photo by Hamid (Not his real name)

Left: People staying in a gym as a temporary shelter after the fire that destroyed the Lanière camp, Grande Synthe

Above: Jan Schebaum, manager of Storkower Strasse, asylum shelter in Berlin

Right: Jan Schebaum outside the shelter building