The construction of walls - not some silly walls for buildings, but walls which prevent people from getting from one place to the other - is still a thing in the 21st century. No, I'm not talking about President Trump - his wall may be the most famous, but it's not the only one we have now.
30 years ago, on the 9th of November 1989 the Berlin wall, which separated Germany into 2 different societies, has fallen. It was a significant victory of unity over division, of friendship over aggression, of freedom over restrictions and prohibitions. At that moment, the development of humankind seemed to be obvious: the Soviet Union is about to collapse and all the states are going to move towards open democratic societies. The world is going to be more and more united - the European community is thriving towards a common market with the potential to become something even bigger pretty soon. It would become an example of cooperation and co-existence for the whole world.
At some point, we went wrong. In some EU countries, tensions of leaving the union are quite strong, in the UK they caused the unprecedented decision of Brexit. There are still many wars in the world, some of them are quite close to Europe such as the war in Eastern Ukraine. Some of them are quite distant from here but so devastating they force people to leave their homes and look for asylum somewhere safe. And of course, walls as symbols of such division in the world keep arising everywhere - here are some of them.
This is so iconic I wasn't sure till the end if I should mention it. One of the main promises of Donald Trump as a runner-up for the chair of the President of the USA was to build a wall on the border with Mexico to prevent illegal migration. His term is coming to its end and the wall is still not there, however, it has caused a lot of division in the society. Just remember partial shutdown of US government, when Congress opposed Trump's suggestion on the wall financing, which resulted in 800 000 federal workers not receiving any payments for 35 days.
You might be surprised by the number of walls the EU has. As the report by TNI shows, since the end of Cold War EU has spent almost €1 billion on building land walls and fences. Since 2012, 11 new walls and fences were built in the EU states - Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria, and Latvia. What's even more interesting - for the years 2021-2027 the European Commission has foreseen more than €8 billion for Border Management Fund, more than €11 billion to Frontex and almost €2 billion for Border surveillance systems.
India has a quite large amount of walls in operation. First of all, it’s the wall on the border with Pakistan in Kashmir - more than 500 km long fence. India’s officials say this wall helps to keep peace in the region and prevent guns-smuggling. This wall, however, doesn’t align with internationally recognised borders and Pakistan is not happy about it at all.
Another wall is built on a border with Bangladesh - the 5th longest land border in the world of more than 4000 km. This border was falling into the news because of severe human rights violations and even killings of Bangladesh people trying to escape to India. India has constructed a 3406 km fence on that border to prevent drug-trafficking and unwanted migration, however, it didn’t really stop neither the migration nor human rights violations.
Finally, there is a fence on a border with Myanmar, also meant to prevent drug-trafficking and crimes. This one, however, is kinda supported by United Nations Drug Control Programme and the conditions for the people living around it are quite good compared to other near-border inhabitants.
After the war in Syria broke out, Turkey was the country to accept pretty much the biggest number of refugees. In 2014, Turkey decided to build a wall on the border with Syria, which resulted in an 828 km long concrete wall. While building it, Turkish constructors entered on the territory of Syria, which made the Syrian government pretty mad.
The wall on the West Bank in Israel is built to protect Israel from the terroristic attacks. The contraversion with the wall, however, is based on the fact that only 15% of it is built on what’s recognised internationally as Israeli land. The other 85% are going quite deep into the Palestinian territory, cutting off around 25 000 Palestinians. What makes Palestinians more afraid is the thought that Israel might wanna make that wall a constant border of the country, since some of the Israeli politicians mentioned such ideas in their statements.
Having quite different communities inside the country which would likely fight each other, Ireland has decided on what is called “Peace Lines”. Those are different kinds of fences in some cities and neighbourhoods like Belfast, Derry, and Portadown. As the tensions are getting lower with the time, this wall might have been demolished by 2023. However, with the Brexit going on in the UK there are risks that Ireland will have more walls pretty soon.
Build bridges, maybe?
Walls are being built to protect people, and it’s a very complicated matter. One can’t just simply demolish all those walls - they are there for some reason and can serve a good cause as well. However, the experience of the Berlin Wall shows that they don’t help much. The key to the problem lies beyond those walls, and only the solution to those problems would grant safety and happiness. Walls could be avoided - we also know that from history. So what could have been done is us focusing more on the issues which made us build the walls instead of just throwing more money for steel and concrete. This is where we, the youth, come in action - participating in youth exchanges, breaking mental barriers between cultures and societies, which will help us to cope with the physical barriers. We might not realize what kind of advantage we have compared to people who were separated by not Berlin Wall, but also the Iron Curtain. Today, we can communicate with the youth all over the world, and that's exactly what we should do.