Walls, barriers, barbed wire: anti-migrant devices in Europe

Spain – Morocco

Start of construction: late 1990s

About eight kilometers long, the barrier of Ceuta materializes, with that of Melilla, one of the two land borders between Spain and Morocco. Its construction took place in the 1990s.

Ceuta is a peninsula largely bordered by the Mediterranean Sea. From 2001, the system was reinforced there, partly with funds from the European Union. A double fenced enclosure – the height of which reaches 10 meters in some places – is topped with barbed wire on the Spanish side.

On the Moroccan side, a 2.50 meter fence represents a first obstacle. Patrols on both sides delimit a neutral zone between the two. Thousands of migrants from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa try to cross it every year.

In May 2021, around 10,000 migrants – an unprecedented influx – managed to enter the Spanish enclave, against a backdrop of diplomatic tensions between Morocco and Spain. Most of them were sent back to the Cherifian kingdom in the days that followed.

Melilla is also isolated by a physical barrier of nearly 12 kilometers. In July 2021, more than 200 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa crossed the fence, two months after the Ceuta episode, another record according to the Spanish authorities.

Greece – Turkey

Start of construction: 2012

The border between the two countries is the scene of regular tensions. In February 2012, Greece launched the construction of a barbed wire wall on a little more than 12 kilometers of land border with Turkey, in the region of the Evros river – the rest of the border being difficult to cross. In October 2021, a new 40 kilometer metal wall was completed, and drones were used as many Afghans tried to cross, after the Taliban took Kabul.

Turkey – Bulgaria

Start of construction: 2014

After an increase in the number of migrants linked to the Syrian crisis, Bulgaria finalized, in the summer of 2014, along its border with Turkey, the construction of a fence three meters high and 30 kilometers long. , with an addition of barbed wire.

Five months later, the Bulgarian government announced a 130 kilometer extension of this fence. The device was also reinforced by cameras and the deployment of border guards.

Hungary – Serbia

Start of construction: 2015

During the height of the “migration crisis” in Europe in 2015, Hungary faced an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants heading for northern Europe. Believing that the European Union was not doing what was necessary to contain these flows, it took the decision – controversial in Europe – to close its border with Serbia in the summer of 2015. It has thus built two metal palisades of 175 kilometers with barbed wire, electronic equipment and patrols to close the main access point for migrants. Since then, border crossings have decreased significantly, but the Hungarian government doubled its fence in the spring of 2017.

Hungary – Croatia

Start of construction: 2015

After Serbia, Hungary set up, in September 2015, two portions of fence (approximately 40 and 80 kilometres) and barbed wire between its country and Croatia to deal with the new route of migrants on the Balkan route. Part of the border (more than 300 kilometers long) between the two States is delimited by a river, which makes it difficult to cross in this part.

Slovenia – Croatia

Start of construction: 2015

Slovenia was also faced with strong migratory pressure in the mid-2010s. From November 2015, it erected discontinuous rows of barbed wire over 80 kilometers, mainly on the south-eastern part of its border with Croatia, and deployed the army in order to stop strategic crossing points for migrants. Since then, several extensions have been carried out, and a barrier made of fences, and sometimes barbed wire, now closes more than 210 kilometers of a border which is about triple it, and which is difficult to cross because of several rivers. (Kolpa, Drava, Mur). In northern Slovenia, Austria erected a fence of almost 4 kilometers in December 2015 at the Spielfeld entry point, between the two states, after having considered a total closure of its border a few months earlier.

North Macedonia – Greece

Start of construction: 2015

The construction of a 2.50 meter high fence with barbed wire between Greece and North Macedonia, a state from the former Yugoslavia, began in November 2015. This was intended to stem the flow migrants who were trying to leave Greece at that time. Barely three months later, a new fence of several tens of kilometers accentuated the sealing of the border. The consequence of these closures was the formation until May 2016, and then in later periods, of an improvised camp of thousands of migrants in Idomeni, a small village in northern Greece.

France – Great Britain

Start of construction: 2010s

Over the 2010s, many additions of barriers and fences were made in Calais, near the port, the Channel Tunnel, or other strategic places to prevent migrants of various nationalities from reaching Great Britain. . A green “anti-intrusion” wall 4 meters high and one kilometer long, erected in autumn 2016, was funded by the United Kingdom. The city of Pas-de-Calais, its port area and several roads are now criss-crossed by tens of kilometers of fences.

Poland – Belarus

Start of construction: 2021

During the summer of 2021, Belarus opened its doors to thousands of migrants, to protest against the European Union’s refusal to recognize the result of the August 2020 presidential election, confiscated by outgoing President Alexander Lukashenko. The EU will denounce this way of using migrants as a “diplomatic weapon”.

From July 2021, Poland is installing barbed wire and deploying thousands of soldiers along its border with Belarus, before reinforcing its system in early September with a 2.50 meter high fence. Finally, she decides to build a wall. At the beginning of January 2022, the Polish government confirms the launch of the construction of the wall over nearly 190 kilometers. The colossal construction site of this new anti-migrant wall was launched on Tuesday 25 January.

Lithuania – Belarus

Start of construction: 2021

During the summer of 2021, Lithuania experienced the same influx of migrants from Belarus as Poland. Vilnius announced in July its intention to build a border wall. The first barbed wire fences were installed in September, and 110 kilometers of separation (barriers and barbed wire 4 meters high) between the two states should be in place by April 2022.

Latvia – Belarus

Start of construction: 2022

In 2017, Latvia had started the construction of a fence topped with barbed wire along its border with Russia for several tens of kilometers. In November 2021, Parliament passed a law relating to the construction of a 136-kilometer-long fence along its border with Belarus. This project is expected to cost around 28 million euros.


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