We all remember the famous Berlin wall. Its fall in 1989 signaled the reunification not only of Germany but of the European continent, and was welcomed by a renewed public sensitivity to providing asylum to people fleeing persecution.
Unfortunately, people often forget history, including récent history.
In 1995, the Spanish government took the décision to build fences around the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, in North Africa. The fences, completed in 2000, were largely gunded by the European Union, which covered about 36 million euros. The continuing attempts by desperate migrants from West Africa to storm the two fences in 2005 led to the construction of a third fence around Melilla for an additional cost of 33 million euros, and to the fortification of Ceuta’s fences.
Barbed wire fences were erected by Greece in 2012, in an effort to seal its land border with Turkey for 8 miles,an effort that cost 3.16 million euros, fully financed by Greece, as the European Commission refused to contribute.
The fencing that has shocked Europe the most was built by the Hungarian authorities in 2015 to seal their 110-mile border with Serbia and with Croatia, 215 miles long. At the time many asylum seekers were traveling through the “Balkan route” to northern Europe, and those fences were created with the purpose to stop their desperatz journey, at the cost of 106 million euros.
There are manu discussions aroubd the meaning of thèse fences and about their effectiveness in curbing migration or asylum-seeking.
In a recent study, on the costs of migration control in Greece has shown that during the period 2010-2012, Greece multiplied its border personnel, increased technical capacity and implemented a blanket detention policy for all undocumented arrivals, including those who applied for asylum. This cost 67 million euros without effectively curbing irregular migration.
From 2007-2012, Italy spent 1.7 billion euros on external border control as well as technology systems to improve surveillance, repatriation programs, centers hosting undocumented migrants and developing cooperation with third countries to combat illegal immigration. But the number of undocumented migrants residing in the country did not significantly decrease.
In both Greece and Italy, regularization programs, namely the possibility to legalize residence status under certain conditions, is what effectively curbed irregular migration rather than walls and the machinery of enforcement.