Another Brick in the Wall – Modern Walls

The fall of the Berlin Wall following the mass demonstrations on November 9th, 1989 was one of the largest geopolitical events in recent history, which ultimately led to the reunification of Germany and the peaceful transition of power of the “communist” regimes in eastern Europe, which ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of former Soviet Republics. The fall of the Wall separating east and west significantly contributed to shaping the borders and political situation of Eurasia that we have today.

But the Berlin’s wall wasn’t the last wall to exist. Even today, differences in ideologies and hostilities between countries help keep border fortifications a thing of the present. Here, we will look at some examples.

Indian Line of Control Fencing

This double fence of concertina wire stretches along 550km of the total 740km of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, which was established following the ceasefire between the two countries in 1972. The space between the two fences is filled with land mines. India officially stated that the boundary was constructed against illegal drug- and weapons trade across the border and against Pakistani-backed separatists infiltrating India. The fence is between two and a half and almost four meters high, electrified, equipped with floodlights for night time, as well as with motion-, thermal- and other alarms. The data collected by all these sensors is directly sent to the Indian Armed Forces. India started building the fence in the 1990s and it was completed in September of 2004, after 14 years of construction.

Bangladesh – India Border Wall

Image by Arruparia
Image by Arruparia

India is constructing a 3,406km border fortification around Bangladesh in an attempt to reduce the smuggling of narcotics over the border. The fence at the border is almost three meters high and made out of barbed wire. At some parts, it is also electrified and equipped with flood light equipment.

 

Moroccan Wall

Just like India and Pakistan, Morocco hasn’t been on especially friendly terms with Western Sahara, however went a step further and annexed the region, now controlling about two thirds of the region. The far east of Western Sahara is still under the control of the current Sarhawi government. Because of the ongoing conflict, Morocco built border fortifications over the course of 7 years from 1981 to 1987.

Along the border between the Moroccan- and Polisario controlled regions, Morocco has built around 2,700m of fortifications, mainly in the form of sand walls, known as berms. Morocco didn’t even care about internationally recognized borders, and so some of the walls extend several kilometers into Mauritanian territory. In total, six lines of berms have been built, and numerous defensive lines are also located deep in Moroccan-controlled territory. At around every 5km are a big, medium and small military base with around 40 soldiers. A little (4km) inland from there are larger posts with motorized units. Between the posts, along the sand wall, are groups of about 10 soldiers. Overlapping radars with a range of up to 80km are also integrated into the berm.

The wall(s) that Morocco built have caused wide-spread international criticism towards the country.

 

Israeli West Bank Barrier

west-bank

The Wall that Israel has built around the West Bank, which is Palestinian territory, is heavily condemned internationally. In total, it has a length of 708km, and is built up to 18km deep into Palestinian territory. Construction was started in 2000 during the second intifada. Israel defends the construction of the wall by saying that it is a necessary security measure against (suicide) attacks from the West Bank, however it significantly restricts free travel for Palestinians, and cuts off 9.2% off Palestinian territory from the rest of the West Bank

 

Belfast Peace Lines

These lines were a direct result of the clashes between Catholic, mainly pro-Irish and Protestant, mainly pro-British communities in Belfast. The lines are built to separate these neighborhoods and can be up to 5km long, sometimes with fortified police stations included into them. Some of the walls have gates that are open during the day and often staffed with police, but remain closed at night. In total, 34km of peace lines have been built since 1969. They are made of metal or sometimes brick.

 

Korean Demilitarized Zone

dmz_korea

The Demilitarized Zone separates the DPRK, North Korea, from the ROK (South Korea). It was established as a buffer zone between the two countries approximately along 38 degrees North following the Korean war, is 4km wide on average and 250km long. Despite its name, it is the most militarized border in the world. Both sides have built countless lines of defense on either side, including fences, military bases, sensors, anti-vehicle ditches, anti-tank measures and various others. There have been repeated clashes at the border, resulting in both military and civil casualties. There is a lot of propaganda on either side of the DMZ, with the most commonly known (for recent conflict surrounding them) being the loudspeaker installations that the North and South have pointed at each other.

 

Ceuta Border Fence

This fence was built by Spain around their exclave Ceuta in northern Morocco, mainly to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. The fence was built in 1993, is 8.4km long and 6m high. It consist of two fences topped with barbed wire and a road in between for patrols and if necessary ambulances. Along the border there are watch posts in regular intervals, spotlights, motion and noise sensors and video cameras; off the shore, the coast guard uses patrol boats and the coast itself is checked by over 1,180 officers. So far, the border fence has killed at least 20 migrants trying to cross it.

 

Melilla Border Fence

This borer fence has been built for much the same reasons as that in Ceuta, and Morocco has opposed both of them as the country does not accept Spanish sovereignty over either of the cities. The border fortification consists of three fences of 6m height, with razor wire, a patrol road in between and the same electrical equipment as is in use in Ceuta.

 

Nicosia Wall and Green Line

A border crossing in the Nicosia wall. Image by Julian Nitzsche, CC-BY-SA 3.0
A border crossing in the Nicosia wall. Image by Julian Nitzsche, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Green Line divides Cyprus into North and South following the Turkish invasion of the North of the Island and is a UN buffer zone. It is 180km long and between 20m and 7km wide. The buffer zone cuts through the center of Nicosia, splitting the city in two. Turkey has built fortifications on the northern side of the buffer zone, with barbed wire fencing, concrete wall segments, watch posts, anti-tank ditches and even mine fields. 10,000 people live or work within the buffer zone, but usually Turks and Greeks are strictly separated to prevent conflict. There is only a single town on the island on which both ethnicities live side by side.

 

US-Mexico Border

A section of the US' border with Mexico.
A section of the US’ border with Mexico.

Along the border of the US to Mexico, a total of around 930km of barriers in the form of walls and fences are set up; in total, the border has a length of 3,145km. Where there is no physical fortification, a “virtual fence” with sensors is in place. The reason for these measures to secure the border were taken to stop illegal immigration into the United States as well as an attempt to limit the drug flow from latin America into the US. In thirteen years until 2007, around 5,000 people have died along the border from Mexico to the US. With Donald Trump elected as the next president of the United States and his proposals for a fortified wall to be built along the entire border with Mexico which he would, as he stated, “make Mexico pay for”, it is possible that in the near future the barriers along the US-Mexico border will be expanded. Polling in 2016, however, showed that 60% of the US’ population was opposed to expand the border wall.

 

Hong Kong’s Frontier Closed Area

Established in 1951, this is a border area with tight regulations regarding access and development, as well as fences at its perimeter, with the aim of preventing illegal immigration from China into Hong Kong and “other illegal activities”. The Frontier Closed Area is located on Hong Kong’s side of the border. A proposal to reduce the area from 28 square kilometers to only 8 sq. km was issued in 2006, but progress is only slowly underway.

 

Hungarian Border Barrier

The border barrier set up by Hungary at the Hungaro-Serbian border. Image: Bőr Benedek
The border barrier set up by Hungary at the Hungaro-Serbian border. Image: Bőr Benedek

Hungary started the construction of this border barrier during the so-called “European migrant crisis”. The aim was to “protect” the borders of Hungary to Croatia and Serbia from illegal immigration by setting up a fence, patrolling the border and further securing it with barbed wire. Along the entire border, there are only a few crossings where migrants can apply for asylum, and reports of inhumane treatment along the border have repeatedly been distributed. The border fence stretches along the border with Serbia, and some parts of the border to Croatia, where the two countries are not separated by a river.
The border to Serbia is 175km long, and along the entire border, a 4m high border barrier was constructed within less than two months by the Hungarian armed forces. There are only two camps for refugees to be registered along the entire border. The border barrier is constructed as a double fence, with a quickly constructed fence of razor blade wire on the outside, and a more solid, three and a half meters tall, fence on the inside.
There has been a lot of criticism towards Hungary regarding the fence and the treatment of refugees; in July 2016, 1,300 people were stuck on the Serbian side of the border. Orban’s right-wing government, which currently leads Hungary, announced in August of the same year that Hungary will construct an even larger border fortification soon.
Hungary also began construction of razor-blade fencing on the border to Slovenia, but removed it again, and has prepared everything for a possible closure of the border to Romania, with the military “just waiting for the command” to set up the border barrier.

Following the closure of Hungary’s border to Croatia, thousands of migrants changed their route to travel through Slovenia instead; Slovenia has set up border barriers, mainly made of barbed wire, at the border to Croatia as well.

 

Turkey-Syria Barrier

With the Syrian civil war and the war against the Islamic State going on in Syria, Turkey has decided to close its border to Syria and build a border fortification, made at least in part of concrete walls, roads for patrols, watchtowers and various different sensors.

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