Fence and walls. Globalisation was supposed to tear down barriers, but security fears and a widespread refusal to help migrants and refugees have fuelled a new spate of wall-building across the world, with a third of the world’s countries constructing them along their borders.
February 13, 2017 – Globalisation was supposed to tear down barriers, but security fears and a widespread refusal to help migrants and refugees have fuelled a new spate of wall-building across the world, with a third of the world’s countries constructing them along their borders.
When the Berlin Wall was torn down a quarter-century ago, there were 16 border fences around the world.
Today, there are 65 either completed or under construction, according to Quebec University expert Elisabeth Vallet.
From Israel’s separation barrier (or ‘apartheid wall’ as it is known by the Palestinians), to the 2,500-mile barbed-wire fence India is building around Bangladesh, to the enormous sand ‘berm’ that separates Morocco from rebel-held parts of the Western Sahara – walls and fences are ever-more popular with politicians wanting to look tough on migration and security.
US presidential Donald Trump plans for the wall along the border with Mexico – to keep out what he called ‘criminals, drug dealers, rapists’ – central to his inflammatory campaign.
Yet experts say there is little proof of their effectiveness in stopping people crossing borders.
In July, Hungary’s right-wing government began building a four-metre-high (13 feet) fence along its border with Serbia to stanch the flow of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘We have only recently taken down walls in Europe; we should not be putting them up,’ was one EU spokesperson’s exasperated response.
Three other countries – Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are all constructing border fences in a bid to keep out jihadist groups next door in Somalia, Iraq and Syria.
Seven miles of barrier have already been erected along the border at Reyhanli town in Hatay province – a main point for smuggling and border-crossing from Syria – the private Dogan news agency said.
The fence in Turkey will eventually stretch for 28 miles along a key stretch of its border with Syria.
But the Turkish wall pales into insignificance when compared to the multi-layered fence which will one day stretch 600 miles from Jordan to Kuwait along Saudi’s border with Iraq – a line of defence against ISIS.
Panic measures: A Hungarian soldier stands next to the first portion of a temporary fence the Hungarian military is erecting on its border to Serbia in an effort to keep out refugees. The country has become one of the main crossing points, especially for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who arrive via Greece and travel through Serbia and Hungary on their way to countries in northern Europe.
But in spite of the aggressive symbolism, it is not clear that walls are truly effective.
‘The one thing all these walls have in common is that their main function is theatre,’ said Marcello Di Cintio, author of ‘Walls: Travels Along the Barricades’.
‘You can’t dismiss that illusion, it’s important to people, but they provide the sense of security, not real security.’
The limits of their effectiveness are visible everywhere – not least, with the migrants and refugees sitting on top of the fence along the border with Morocco and the small Spanish enclave of Mellila, on the North African coast.
Even the fearsome Berlin Wall with its trigger-happy sentries still leaked thousands of refugees even in its most forbidding years.
Supporters of walls say a few leaks are better than a flood. But, Di Cintio argues we must also consider the psychological price they exact.
Ukrainian border guards patrol along the on the Senkivka border post, around 125 miles north of the capital Kiev. Dubbed the ‘Wall’, the ambitious project to seal up Ukraine’s porous 1,200-mile frontier with Russia was announced in March 2014 after Moscow seized the Crimea peninsula from Kiev and has since supported separatists in their land-grab offensives in the east of the country
Divide: Along the Moroccan border with Western Sahara is a sand wall called the ‘Berm’, which is surrounded by mines to stop the Polisario Front fighters crossing. It is second in length only to the Great Wall of China, and has kept families separated for decades