Several countries are tightening their border controls and building border walls to reduce the influx of refugees and migrants. France is one of the countries that has built a border wall for this reason. At the same time, a study shows that border walls do not stop migration.
As a reaction to the increased migration to France in recent years, the country has tightened its border controls. 2016 was built the border wall Calais Border Barrier to prevent migrants from reaching the Channel Tunnel between France and the UK. The border wall is approximately 65 kilometers long and is considered an external border since Britain left the EU. In 2022, the French government decided to also tighten border controls at the Alps between France and Italy as a result of increased migration.
In May this year, France reintroduced temporary border controls. The reason was, among other things, an increase in irregular migration to the country and an increased risk of terrorist acts in connection with the Rugby World Cup - which takes place between September and October this year. Other European countries have or will also tighten their border controls in the future.
More and more countries are building border walls and fences
And that is not just France which has built a border wall within Europe to prevent irregular migration and fight terrorism. Lithuania built a border wall with Belarus in 1999 and 2000, Greece built a fence on the border with Turkey in 2012, and Hungary built a fence with Serbia in 2015. Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Poland and Finland have also built fences along their borders with Russia.
The number of border walls and fences between countries in the world has increased significantly in recent years. Today exists 74 border walls around the world, and most of them are built to counter illegal migration, but also to increase internal security in the countries and to prevent smuggling of both people and illegal goods. The EU/Schengen area is currently surrounded or crossed by 19 boundary walls and separation fences.
As a result of the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016 and the increased tension between the EU and Russia, many EU member states have benefited from a EUregulation which allows the countries to apply for EU funds to finance the construction of border walls and separation fences. Despite the fact that the construction of border walls and fences in itself does not violate any EU law, the EU still believes that it contradicts basic human rights, for example the right to seek international protection. These EU funds must also mainly go to support effective European border management at the external borders and to facilitate legal border crossings.
90 migrants and refugees arrived via the Mediterranean route in 000
Border and migration issues have long been discussed within the EU, but it was during the refugee crisis in 2015, when approximately 1.2 one million refugees made it to Europe, as the issue ended up high on the agenda. The EU introduced tougher rules for refugees and asylum seekers, which led to the construction of border walls and fences accelerated. Despite stricter limits doubled the number of migrants and refugees in 2021 and 2022, most of whom made their way from North Africa to an EU country via the Mediterranean.
But there are also many people who do not manage to make it all the way to Europe. Around 26 migrants and refugees who have taken the Mediterranean route since 000 until today are missing or dead, according to the United Nations Organization for Migration (IOM).
At the end of last year, the issue of migration across the Mediterranean led to a conflict between France and Italy, which was about the responsibility over ships registered in other countries and what responsibility France and Italy have for migrants they rescue. This led to the fact that in November the European Commission produced one action plan to increase cooperation between EU countries regarding searching for and rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.
The action plan, like the EU in the end Agreed on in June this year, aims, among other things, to reduce irregular migration and to combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. While the EU has approved the plan, it is criticized by non-governmental organizations, according to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). They believe that the action plan is short-term and that it only reuses strategies from previous plans.
Border walls affect who migrates
Border walls does not stop immigration, shows a evaluation report of the Mecator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration (MEDAM) from 2017. Instead, they change migration patterns and who migrates, while undermining integration, according to MEDAM.
Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants enter Europe every year, and the construction of land-based walls forces migrants to choose more dangerous routes into Europe, such as the sea route.
- While we should be mindful of the duty of states to prevent irregular migration, it is also an obligation under international law to allow those seeking asylum to do so. These two obligations are not mutually exclusive, says Maria Clara Martin, UNHCR representative in Greece in an interview.
According to the IOM irregular migration means the movement of persons outside the laws, regulations or international agreements that regulate entry into or exit from the country of origin, transit or destination. This means entering, staying or working in a country without the permits or documents required in that country. An addition to the definition is that, although there is no universally accepted definition of irregular migration, the term is generally used to identify people who move outside normal migration channels.