This article explores nonrecording on the borders of Europe during the
“European refugee crisis” in 2015. It examines the ambiguous practices of border
control and the diverse actors involved. Taking the island of Lesvos as its starting
point, the article interrogates how state functionaries manage an “irregular” bureaucracy.
Irregular bureaucracy is approached as an essential element of state-craft
, rather than an indication of state failure. Nonrecording is thus a crucial site
of contestation between the state, nonstate agents, and the government, as well as
between Greece and “Europe.” Nevertheless, despite the prevalence of irregularity,
the imagery associated with ideal bureaucracy—a system of absolute knowledge,
control, and governance of populations—is powerful; and yet, the actors are fully
aware that it is a fantasy.