The customs post at Bobrowniki was looking busy a couple of weeks ago. Inactive, too. When I drove there from Białystok, the stationary juggernauts snaked back ten miles. A driver halfway along said he’d already spent two nights in his cab. Individuals headed for Belarus could jump the queue, but only if they surrendered all goods acquired in Poland. When I optimistically suggested to Nikita Grekowicz, a Belarusian-Polish journalist, that we one day meet in Minsk, he smiled. ‘Not today though,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t take a cookie. And they’d probably arrest me as a spy.’
The officer at the US embassy informed me that my authorisation to travel had been revoked because the ‘algorithm’ had identified a security threat. He said he did not know what had triggered the algorithm but suggested that it could be something I was involved in, people I am or was in contact with, places to which I had travelled (had I recently been in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia or met their nationals?), hotels at which I stayed, or a certain pattern of relations among these things. I was asked to supply the embassy with additional information, including 15 years of travel history, in particular where I had gone and who had paid for it. The officer said that Homeland Security investigators could assess my case more promptly if I supplied the names of anyone in my network whom I believed might have triggered the algorithm. I declined to provide this information.
As the United Kingdom drifts towards a hard Brexit, the media are strangely quiet about the significance of the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Under this longstanding arrangement, which ought to continue even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, all British citizens who were born in the UK have the right to live, work, receive health care, access education and vote in Ireland, and Irish citizens enjoy the reciprocal rights in the UK.
‘As time went by the military government became increasingly obsessed with our reading lists,’ Gabi Baramki writes in Peaceful Resistance (2010), his account of the founding of Birzeit University in the early 1970s. ‘Books we ordered from abroad were often permanently confiscated without us even setting our eyes on them.’ Texts on archaeology, history and Arabic literature were all banned.
The Ehang 184 is a Chinese-produced taxi drone that has begun tests in Dubai of trips up to ten miles long. When it arrives on the market, each one will probably cost its private hire operator between $200,000 and $300,000. But prices fall almost as fast the technology improves. According to Paul Rigby, the CEO of Consortiq, a drone consultancy firm, you can now buy for £500 a drone with capabilities that in an equivalent model five years ago would have set you back £10,000. In five years’ time, Rigby says, there’ll probably be drones that can carry a person two hundred miles before the batteries need to be recharged. Uber foresees a day when a 50-mile drone taxi flight from the São Paulo suburb of Campinas to the city centre will cost the equivalent of $24. Refugees who can afford it currently pay thousands of dollars to escape war zones and make the uncertain journey to a place of greater safety in Europe. In the future, perhaps some of them will be able to travel by drone.