Separation barrier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Berlin Wall divided Berlin from 1961 until 1989, and was demolished between 1990 and 1992.

A separation barrier is a barrier (such as a defensive wall, fence, mound, trench or minefield) intended to restrict the movement of people across a certain line, typically a demarcation line or a border, or to physically separate peoples or cultures.[1] A separation barrier that runs along an international border is known as a border barrier.

David Henley opines in The Guardian that separation barriers are being built at a record-rate around the world along borders and do not only surround dictatorships or pariah states. The term "separation barrier" has been applied to structures erected in Belfast, Homs, the West Bank, São Paulo, Cyprus, and along the Greece-Turkey border and the Mexico-United States border. Several erected separation barriers are no longer active or in place, including the Berlin Wall, the Maginot Line and some barrier sections in Jerusalem.[2]

Structures described as "Separation barriers"[edit]


Green Line separation barrier, Cyprus

Since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Turkey has constructed and maintained what economics professor Rongxing Guo has called a "separation barrier" of 300 kilometres (190 mi) along the 1974 Green Line (or ceasefire line) dividing the island of Cyprus into two parts, with a United Nations buffer zone between them.[3]


The Egypt–Gaza barrier is often referred as "separation barrier" in the media[4] or as a "separating wall".[5][6][7] In December 2009, Egypt started the construction of the Egypt–Gaza barrier along the border with Gaza, consisting of a steel wall. Egypt's foreign minister said that the wall, being built along the country's border with the Gaza Strip will defend it "against threats to national security".[8] Though the construction paused a number of times, the wall is nearly complete.


Palestinian protest art on the separation barrier running through Bethlehem.

Israel began building the Israeli West Bank barrier in 2002, which it argues protects civilians from Palestinian terrorism such as suicide bombing attacks which increased significantly during the Second Intifada. Barrier opponents claim it seeks to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security and undermines peace negotiations by unilaterally establishing new borders. When completed it will be a 700-kilometres long network of high walls, electronic fences, gates and trenches. It is a controversial barrier because much of it is built outside the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line), annexing potentially 10 percent of Palestinian land, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It cuts far into the West Bank and encompasses Israel's largest settlement blocs containing hundreds of thousands of settlers.

In June 2004, the Israeli Supreme Court held that building the wall on West Bank Palestinian land is in itself legal, but it ordered some changes to the original route, which separated 35,000 Palestinian farmers from their lands and crops. The Israeli finance minister replied that it was disputed land, not Palestinian, and its final status would be resolved in political negotiation.[9] In July 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague in an advisory opinion declared the barriers illegal under international law and called on Israel to dismantle the walls, return confiscated land and make reparations for damages.[10][11] In spite of all this, the number of Arab terrorist suicide bombings began and continued to decrease with the gradual completion of segments of the Security Barrier as was initially stated it would by the Israeli authorities.[12][13]

Israel refers to land between the 1949 lines and the separation barrier as the Seam Zone, including all of Palestinian East Jerusalem. In 2003, the military declared that only Israeli citizens and Palestinians with permits are allowed to be inside it; Palestinians have found it increasingly difficult to get permits unless they own land in the zone.[14][15] The separation barrier cuts off east Jerusalem and some settlement blocs from the remainder of the West Bank, even as Israelis build illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.[16] Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have continued to protest the separation barrier.[17]

Israel also has built a barrier in the Jordan Valley near the Jordan border to prevent infiltration from Jordan and to prevent Palestinians from entering Jordan.[citation needed] Because of international condemnation after the International Court ruling Israel did not build an even stronger barrier, instead instituting a restrictive permit regime for Palestinians.[18] It has been opined that this change was to allow land to be annexed.[19] The existing barrier cuts off access to the Jordan River for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.[20] Israeli settlement councils already have de facto control of 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea[21] as the settler population steadily grows there.[22]


Writer Damon DiMarco has described as a "separation barrier" the Kuwait-Iraq barricade constructed by the United Nations in 1991 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was repelled. With electrified fencing and concertina wire, it includes a 15-foot-wide trench and a high berm. It runs 120 miles along the border between the two nations.[23]


Renee Pirrong of the Heritage Foundation described the Malaysia–Thailand border barrier as a “separation barrier.” Its purpose is to cut down on smuggling, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, crime and insurgency.[24]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In 2004 Saudi Arabia began construction of a Saudi-Yemen barrier between its territory and Yemen to prevent the unauthorized movement of people and goods into and out of the Kingdom. Some have labeled it a "separation barrier."[25] In February 2004 The Guardian reported that Yemeni opposition newspapers likened the barrier to the Israeli West Bank barrier,[26] while The Independent wrote "Saudi Arabia, one of the most vocal critics in the Arab world of Israel's 'security fence' in the West Bank, is quietly emulating the Israeli example by erecting a barrier along its porous border with Yemen".[27] Saudi officials rejected the comparison saying it was built to prevent infiltration and smuggling.[26]


BBC reporter Nick Thorpe described a 150-meter-long and 2.2-meter-high wall in the Slovakian town of Ostrovany as a “separation barrier” and compares it to the Berlin Wall and the Israeli separation barriers because it is meant to divide the two-thirds majority Roma population from the native Slovaks. Slovaks accuse the Roma of stealing their fruit, vegetables and metal fence posts.[28]

United Kingdom[edit]

Gates in a "peace line" in West Belfast.
Main article: Peace lines

Over 21 miles of high walling or fencing separate Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, with most concentrated in Belfast and Derry. The wall [clarification needed] was built in 1969 in order to separate the Catholic and Protestant areas in Belfast.[29] An Army Major, overseeing the construction of the wall at the time, said: ‘This is a temporary measure ... we do not want to see another Berlin wall situation in Western Europe ... it will be gone by Christmas’. In 2013, that wall still remains and almost 100 additional walls and barriers now complement the original. Technically known as 'peace walls', there are moves to remove all of them by 2023 by mutual consent.[30]

United States[edit]

Beach in Tijuana at the American-Mexican border, circa 2006

The United States has constructed barrier along 130 kilometres (81 mi) of its border with Mexico of 3,169 kilometres (1,969 mi) to prevent unauthorized immigration into the United States and to deter smuggling of contraband. The Georgetown Journal of Law has referred to it as a "separation barrier" and suggests that while it is "revolting to many as an ugly face of separation" it could be used as an opportunity if part of a larger program of "foreign aid, infrastructure investment and regional development."[31]

Past separation barriers[edit]


People climb onto the wall near Brandenburg Gate during the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 1989.
Main article: Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989,[32] constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989.[33] Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992.[34] The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,[35] which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the "death strip") that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

The Berlin Wall was officially referred to as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall) by GDR authorities, implying that the NATO countries and West Germany in particular were "fascists."[36] The West Berlin city government sometimes referred to it as the "Wall of Shame"—a term coined by mayor Willy Brandt—while condemning the Wall's restriction on freedom of movement. Along with the separate and much longer Inner German border (IGB), which demarcated the border between East and West Germany, it came to symbolize the "Iron Curtain" that separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

Before the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and defected from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin, from where they could then travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989, the wall prevented almost all such emigration.[37] During this period, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with an estimated death toll of from 136[38] to more than 200[39] in and around Berlin.

In 1989, a series of radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Bloc, associated with the liberalization of the Eastern Bloc's authoritarian systems and the erosion of political power in the pro-Soviet governments in nearby Poland and Hungary. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. Contrary to popular belief the wall's actual demolition did not begin until the summer of 1990 and was not completed until 1992.[32] The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.

Map of seperation barriers worldwide[edit]

Separation barriers in the world, constructed or under construction.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The fence along the Mexican-U.S. border is just one of many barriers proposed or constructed around the world to keep people and cultures separated. Learn more about them below."[1]
  2. ^ David Henley, Walls: an illusion of security from Berlin to the West Bank, The Guardian, November 19, 2013.
  3. ^ Rongxing Guo, Territorial Disputes and Resource Management: A Global Handbook, Nova Publishers, 2006, p 91, ISBN 1600214452, 9781600214455
  4. ^ "Egypt-Gaza Border Quiet Despite Political Rhetoric - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  5. ^ Fleishman, Jeffrey; Hassan, Amro (2009-12-21). "Egypt's barrier along Gaza border called 'wall of shame' - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  6. ^ Younis, Nora; Knickmeyer, Ellen (2008-01-26). "'Dear Palestinian Brothers . . . Please Return to Gaza'". Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  7. ^ Erlanger, Steven (2008-01-26). "Egypt Tries to Plug Border; Gazans Poke New Hole". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  8. ^ "Egypt defends Gaza wall - Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  9. ^ " - Israel orders separation barrier changes". 2004-06-30. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  10. ^ "U.N. court rules West Bank barrier illegal - Jul 9, 2004". 2004-07-10. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  11. ^ "International Court of Justice - Legal consequences of the construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory - Written Statement submitted by Palestine" (PDF). 30 January 2004. p. 364. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  12. ^ Ministry of Defense. "Israel Security Fence". MoD. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Bard, Mitchell. "West bank Security Fence". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "Israel's Separation Barrier:Challenges to the Rule of Law and Human Rights: Executive Summary Part I and II" (PDF). International Commission of Jurists. 6 July 2004. Retrieved 2012-05-27. 
  15. ^ "Cabinet Communique". 1 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  16. ^ "Palestinian official rejects partial Israeli settlement freeze to restart peace talks". 2013-03-24. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  17. ^ Ben Ehrenreich, Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?, New York Times, March 15, 2013.
  18. ^ "13 Feb. 2006: Israel has de facto annexed the Jordan Valley | B'Tselem". 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  19. ^ Akiva Eldar, Israel effectively annexes Palestinian land near Jordan Valley, Haaretz, November 18, 2011.
  20. ^ Ferry Biedermann, Mideast: Environment Too Encounters a Barrier, Inter Press Service, November 25, 2004.
  21. ^ "Beyond the E-1 Israeli settlement | Maan News Agency". Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  22. ^ "EU on verge of abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state". 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  23. ^ Damon DiMarco, Heart of War: Soldiers? Voices, Citadel Press, 2007, p. 129, ISBN 0806528141, 9780806528144
  24. ^ Renee Pirron,, Heritage Foundation blog, August 6, 2010
  25. ^ Anthony H. Cordesman, Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region, p. 276.
  26. ^ a b Whitaker, Brian (February 17, 2004). "Saudi security barrier stirs anger in Yemen". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  27. ^ Bradley, John (February 11, 2004). "Saudi Arabia enrages Yemen with fence". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  28. ^ Nick Thorpe, Slovakia's separation barrier to keep out Roma , BBC, March 9, 2010.
  29. ^ "The wall was built in 1969 to separate the Catholic Falls Road and the Protestant Shankill Road. An Army Major, overseeing the construction of the wall at the time, said: ‘This is a temporary measure ... we do not want to see another Berlin wall situation in Western Europe ... it will be gone by Christmas’. In 2013, that wall still remains and almost 100 additional walls and barriers now complement the original. " [2]
  30. ^ "Robinson and McGuinness want "peace walls" down within 10 years". The Irish Times. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  31. ^ The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Volume 5, Georgetown University Law Center, 2007, p. 347.
  32. ^ a b Chicago Tribune (31 October 2014). "Untangling 5 myths about the Berlin Wall". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Video: Berlin, 1961/08/31 (1961). Universal Newsreel. 1961. Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Jack Marck "Over the Wall: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience" American Heritage, October 2006.
  36. ^ [3][dead link]
  37. ^ "Freedom! – TIME". TIME<!. 20 November 1989. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  38. ^ "Forschungsprojekt "Die Todesopfer an der Berliner Mauer, 1961–1989": BILANZ (Stand: 7. August 2008) (in German)". Retrieved 6 August 2011. 
  39. ^ "Center for Contemporary Historical Research (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam e.V) in German". Retrieved 6 August 2011. 

External links[edit]