In the latest issue:

Short Cuts

Jonathan Parry

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short CutsDaniel Trilling
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Vol. 36 No. 15 · 31 July 2014
Short Cuts

At the Selmentsi Crossing

Daniel Trilling

The European Union’s​ eastern frontier cuts through Selmentsi, a village on the border of Slovakia and Ukraine. On the Ukrainian side, the road leading to the checkpoint is lined with shops selling fake designer clothes. The villagers serving in the shops slip easily between Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Slovakian, a legacy of the region’s contested history. Once part of the Habsburg Empire, this section of the Carpathian mountains was taken by the Soviet Union in 1945. A glance at a map shows why Stalin coveted it: across a span of just a few hundred kilometres, Transcarpathia borders Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland which is very convenient for an empire looking to keep its satellite states in check.

Smuggling sustains the economy of Transcarpathian villages like Selmentsi. Cheap, Slovak-registered cars in one direction, cigarettes and other contraband in the other, along with a cargo that villagers in Selmentsi refer to as ‘the blacks’: refugees and other undocumented migrants from Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Middle East and beyond. Although far fewer people enter the EU this way than cross the Mediterranean in leaky boats from North Africa or Turkey, this eastern route has long been an area of concern for the planners charged with keeping EU borders secure. In 2008, Ukraine signed a readmission agreement with the EU which was intended to make it easier and quicker for the EU to expel unwanted migrants. Turkey signed a similar agreement in 2013: the idea is that the EU’s neighbours act as a buffer zone, taking on the task of processing and deporting migrants in return for fewer restrictions on the movement around Europe of their own citizens.

Here’s how the arrangement is supposed to work in Transcarpathia: if a person is apprehended without valid travel documents on the EU side of the border, they are given the chance to claim asylum. (Countries that have signed up to international conventions on refugees are obliged to do this.) If they decline, they are handed back to the Ukrainian border police. A local court will then usually sentence them to a year in a special immigration prison – there are two of these, both built with financial support from the EU – for disrespecting Ukraine’s border regulations, after which they will be deported to their country of origin.

Unless, that is, they can’t be deported. Cherko Ali, now 25, fled Mogadishu in January 2008 because he was sick of living in a ruined city where death comes often and arbitrarily. He caught a flight to Dubai, where people smugglers sold him a forged Russian visa and arranged a flight to Moscow. A month later, he was driven to Kharkiv in Ukraine, then to Kiev, then eventually to the border near Selmentsi. It was autumn, and his group – 11 Somalis and three Afghans, men and women – walked in the rain for seven hours across the mountains and into Slovakia. A passing car spotted them and within five minutes a Slovakian police car had arrived. The group were taken to a border checkpoint, where they said they wanted to claim asylum. The Slovak police said fine, we’ll drive you to a reception centre. It was only when they saw Ukrainian flags that they realised they were being taken back across the border.

After being handed over to the Ukrainian border police, they were beaten. We don’t come to Somalia, so don’t come to Ukraine, they were told. Half the group were driven to a detention centre in the nearby town of Chop; the car was too small to take them all, so Cherko Ali and four others spent the night handcuffed to a radiator at the border checkpoint. Later, he was placed in detention, where he applied for asylum in Ukraine: as usually happens, his claim was rejected. But Ukraine doesn’t deport people to Somalia because it’s so dangerous, and so when Cherko Ali was released early in 2010 he was left to fend for himself in a country he had never heard of until the smugglers drove him there from Moscow.

I met Cherko Ali in the offices of a local NGO that provides legal support to refugees in Transcarpathia. He told me his story in the matter-of-fact way that a person develops after months of repeating the same information to a long series of indifferent officials. Although a lieutenant-colonel I spoke to in Ukraine’s state border service maintained that all his officers were trained to treat migrants courteously and according to the law, the NGO’s staff told me that Cherko Ali’s experiences were typical. Human rights activists here and elsewhere in the country have collated numerous reports from refugees who claim that they were lied to by Slovak border guards when they requested asylum, and sent back to Ukraine. These ‘push-backs’ are increasingly common around the edges of the EU.

What becomes of Cherko Ali and the other Somalis Ukraine can’t get rid of? Until recently, they would head for Vinnytsia, a city in the centre of the country used by people smugglers as a staging post for their cargo on the route west. There, the Somalis, some of them unaccompanied minors, would live ten to a two-bed flat, frequently harassed by local police and security services. When a local human rights group began documenting their accounts of mistreatment and posting them on YouTube, its office was raided by police, who charged its founder with ‘distributing pornography’. Now the Somalis have left Vinnytsia, after being told that if they stayed they wouldn’t be eligible for legal support.

As many as several hundred are still in Ukraine, however, either pursuing claims for refugee status there, or trying again to find a way into the EU. In some cases, people have gone through the months-long routine of crossing, capture, detention and release two or even three times. Ukraine’s refugee support groups are now overstretched: just under sixty thousand people are internally displaced, having left their homes in Crimea as a result of Russia’s disputed takeover, or fled the war with separatists in the east. ‘This might be a good opportunity for Ukraine to understand forced migration,’ one official told me.

The day after I met Cherko Ali, I visited him at a temporary accommodation centre for refugees – again, built with EU money – thirty minutes’ drive from the Selmentsi border crossing. The centre is a two-storey barracks, with room for around sixty people. It’s surrounded by a high wall but there’s enough space for vegetable patches and a children’s play area. The inhabitants come from many different countries; everyone I spoke to wanted to reach the European Union either because they had friends or family there or because they felt it would be safer than where they are now. Farhana, a 23-year-old who had travelled from Afghanistan with her eight-year-old son, was frightened that other Afghans would kidnap her and send her back to Kabul because she wasn’t accompanied by a man. Gulshoda, an Uzbek exile, had been living in Germany but left because her daughter’s father was threatening to kill them. The German consulate wouldn’t help her, she said. A journalist from Turkey who fled because he was threatened with arrest wanted to reach a country where other Turkish citizens would not be able to enter easily: he feared being kidnapped. With their three teenage children, he and his wife had tried to cross into Hungary but were refused entry.

I spent some time talking to the Turkish journalist with the help of Gulshoda, who translated our conversation. On a shelf in his bedroom were some of the books he had written: several historical novels, a biography of a Crimean feminist, and a book about beekeeping. ‘I don’t feel I have freedom here,’ he said. ‘We have a roof over our head and I can spend time with my family, but I can’t even leave here to buy a drink or eat a meal by myself. I cannot call this a life.’

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.