10 Border Barriers Around the World

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President Donald Trump claims his proposed wall along the Mexican border will solve several problems. Opponents call the barrier a waste of money, ineffective and even immoral. Putting that controversial issue aside, it’s worth noting that the U.S. is definitely not alone in considering a border barrier. In the past few years, dozens of countries have either finished or proposed barriers. Just as President Trump has cited for his reasoning, most of these barriers are designed to control illegal immigration, with terrorism and drug smuggling also factors. And just as in the U.S., many of these barriers have sparked controversy.


10. Hungarian Border Barrier

The 13-foot high Hungarian border barrier has stemmed the flow of asylum seekers entering the country. © Bőr Benedek

Hungary began construction of a barrier along its border with Serbia and Croatia in 2015 to prevent asylum seekers and immigrants from entering. The 13-foot fence, built with help from the Hungarian military, stretches some 325 miles. While the fence has strained Hungary’s relations with some European Union members, it has dramatically reduced illegal immigration.


9. India-Pakistan Border Barrier

The floodlit border between India (top) and Pakistan emits an orange glow at night that is visible from space. Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory

India has spent the past quarter-century building thousands of miles of border barriers in a bid to stop illegal immigration, drug smuggling and other inflow from bordering nations. The 1,800-mile-long barrier between India and Pakistan is especially notable. Located along one of the most dangerous borders in the world, the barrier has a heavy military presence. With more than 150,000 floodlights, it is easily visible from space. But fences aren’t enough; the Indian Border Security Force has around 250,000 troops patrolling the country’s more than 8,600 miles of borders.


8. Norwegian Border Fence

The Norwegian border fence is designed to reduce the number of Syrian refugees coming into the country from Russia. © BIL

We’ve seen more secure and official-looking fences around middle-school athletic fields. The above photo shows part of an older section of fence Norway built along its border with Russia. Norway constructed a sturdier, steel barrier along 660 feet of its Russian border in 2016 to hinder illegal immigrants. Despite the short length, the fence stirred controversy in the country, with much of the same rhetoric on both sides you’ll hear in debates about the U.S./Mexican border wall. The nation has been dealing in recent years with an influx of thousands of Syrians entering from Russia. Oddly enough, immigrants were prohibited from driving or walking across the border, but were allowed to ride bicycles into Norway.


7. Ceuta Border Fence

The Ceuta border fence has been breached several times in recent years as African immigrants clashed with Spanish police at the border.

Ceuta, a Spanish city and territory on the North African coast, has for years been dealing with an influx of African immigrants coming from Morocco. In the 1990s, Ceuta built miles of fencing along its Moroccan border. When the 10-foot fence proved too easy to climb, Ceuta rebuilt imposing parallel fences 20 feet high. Those fences are heavily monitored and patrolled. Still, several times in recent years, large groups of immigrants have stormed the barrier trying to cross, sometimes resulting in deadly confrontations with border agents. In several incidents in 2018, African immigrants attacked police officers with weapons and hurled human waste and corrosive substances at them.


6. Moroccan Western Sahara Wall

Sahrawi women protest at the Moroccan Western Sahara Wall. Credit: Wikipedia

In terms of building materials, this one is quite simplistic: a series of sand walls, or berms, averaging 7 to 10 feet tall. But the scope is impressive, with the barrier stretching some 1,700 miles across Western Sahara. Morocco built it to prevent guerrilla fighters seeking independence from getting into Moroccan-controlled territory in Western Sahara; those fighters and their supporters have dubbed it the “Wall of Shame.” The barrier is backed by a heavy military presence and what is considered the longest minefield in the world.


5. South African Electrical Fence

South African-Mozambique border fence in 2007. Public Domain

Most of the barriers in the world have been erected by prosperous nations trying to stop immigration from less-prosperous countries. Such is the case with South Africa, which erected fencing along its borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe beginning in 1975. The electrical barrier carried a lethal voltage; by one estimate, some 200 immigrants each year were electrocuted trying to breach the so-called “Snake of Fire.”

South African humanitarian and religious leaders called for change, leading to a 2002 decision to begin removing the fence. Although much of the fencing has been removed — and the electricity turned off — the country has rebuilt about 100 miles of electrical fencing between Kruger National Park and Mozambique to deter poachers.


4. Great Wall of Saudi Arabia

A simulation of the “Great Wall of Saudi Arabia,” which features a series of barriers augmented by high-tech radar and electronics. © News Direct

When Islamic State fighters captured vast stretches of Iraqi territory in 2014, Saudi Arabia immediately set out to build a 560-mile barrier along its border with that war-torn nation. Beyond a series of razor-wire fences and sand berms, the barrier includes several high-tech surveillance features. Radar can detect pedestrians up to 11 miles away and trucks 20 miles out. There are underground movements sensors, night-vision cameras and more. In a nod to the ancient Chinese structure, it’s been dubbed the “Great Wall of Saudi Arabia.


3. Calais Border Barrier

The Calais border barrier was built to keep immigrants from entering Britain through the Channel Tunnel or French port of Calais.

The UK and France joined forces to build this 13-foot high wall along a highway in 2016 during the European migrant crisis. The purpose: Prevent migrants from a refugee camp dubbed “The Jungle” from hopping into vehicles or ferries in the French port of Calais to enter Britain. Critics called it a waste of money and immoral, but political sentiment in the two countries favors measures to fight illegal immigration.


2. Israel West Bank Barrier

Graffiti is a common sight along the Israel West Bank barrier. © Magnus Höij

This is the most controversial border barrier in the world today. Israel began construction on the 440-mile structure in late 2000 after a wave of suicide bombings. Built roughly along the Green Line, or the original border of Israel as outlined in 1948, the wall has led to a sharp decrease in suicide bombings in the country. Palestinians say the barrier, which they often refer to as the “Apartheid Wall,” cuts into their territory in the West Bank. In 2003, the United Nations voted 144-4 adopting a resolution that the wall violates international law and should be removed; the U.S. voted against the resolution.


1. Korean Demilitarized Zone

The 2.5-mile-wide Korean Demilitarized Zone features electric fences, land mines and other barriers separating the two Koreas.

This infamous series of barriers and 2.5-mile-wide buffer zone between North and South Korea needs no introduction. Technically, the two Koreas are still engaged in the war that began in 1950; they never reached an official treaty. But the two sides met in an historic summit in 2018, and are taking steps toward reunification. It’s incredibly ironic that at a time when dozens of countries are erecting or proposing walls and barriers, one of the most ominous barriers in the world might one day be removed.


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The author is a longtime professional journalist who has interviewed everyone from presidential contenders to hall of fame athletes to rock 'n' roll legends while covering politics, sports, and other topics for both local and national publications and websites. His latest passions are history, geography and travel. He's traveled extensively around the United States seeking out the hidden wonders of the country.