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 Several erected separation barriers are no longer active or in place, including the Berlin Wall, the Maginot Line and some barrier sections in Jerusalem.
Structures described as "Separation barriers"
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.
The Egypt–Gaza barrier is often referred as "separation barrier" in the media or as a "separating wall". 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". Though the construction paused a number of times, the wall is nearly complete.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have continued to protest the separation barrier.
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. 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. It has been opined that this change was to allow land to be annexed. The existing barrier cuts off access to the Jordan River for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. Israeli settlement councils already have de facto control of 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea as the settler population steadily grows there.
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.
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.
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." In February 2004 The Guardian reported that Yemeni opposition newspapers likened the barrier to the Israeli West Bank barrier, 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". Saudi officials rejected the comparison saying it was built to prevent infiltration and smuggling.
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.
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. 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.
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."
Past separation barriers
The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989, 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. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, 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." 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. During this period, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with an estimated death toll of from 136 to more than 200 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. 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
- Defensive walls
- List of fortifications
- List of walls
- List of cities with defensive walls
- Buffer zone
- "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."
- David Henley, Walls: an illusion of security from Berlin to the West Bank, The Guardian, November 19, 2013.
- Rongxing Guo, Territorial Disputes and Resource Management: A Global Handbook, Nova Publishers, 2006, p 91, ISBN 1600214452, 9781600214455
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- Renee Pirron, http://blog.heritage.org/2010/08/06/fences-and-neighbors/, Heritage Foundation blog, August 6, 2010
- Anthony H. Cordesman, Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region, p. 276.
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- Nick Thorpe, Slovakia's separation barrier to keep out Roma , BBC, March 9, 2010.
- "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. " 
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