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April 9, 2023

EU Countries Are Building Fences All Around Their Borders With

The increasing number of illegal migrants reaching the European Union and Schengen Area Member States has pushed the latter to take different approaches to tackle their activity, including here by putting physical barriers at the borders.

An official document presented to the Members and staff of the European Parliament in 2022 shows that between 2014, and 2022, the physical barriers at 19 EU external borders grew from 315 km to 2,048 km, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

This means that approximately 13 per cent, or 1,535 kilometres, of EU external land borders were fenced off, in 2022, when the report was published.

Two main official reasons are put forward for building border fences: to prevent irregular migration and combat terrorism,” the document points out.

It further reveals that the first border fences in Europe were built by Spain in the early 1990s, to prevent irregular migration into its enclaves in Morocco – Ceuta and Melilla. The number of fences across Europe, however, mainly increased following the migratory crisis of 2015/2016.

First the tensions, and then the invasion of Ukraine by Russia have also pushed several EU countries at the eastern borders to build new fence borders with Belarus and Russia.

Some of the most recent fences built by EU countries is the extension of the Evros fence between Greece and Turkey, the fence that Finland recently started building in Pelkola of Imatra, at the border with Russia, as well as the fence between Hungary and Serbia which has recently been made higher.

Greece Expanding Border Fence With Türkiye by Another 35 Kilometres

Border fence between Greece & Turkiye | © Official Twitter account of the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis

The border fence between Greece and Türkiye which the Hellenic authorities have built in an effort to further stop the illegal entry of migrants from their non-EU neighbour, is already 37.5 kilometres long. However, work is underway for Greece to extend this fence with an additional 35 kilometres.

Moreover, the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, has said during an interview for SKAI TV that in the future, the fence on the Evros will be extended to the entire 200 kilometres of the land border with Türkiye.

The decision of KYSEA is to cover all the 200 kilometres or so that is the Greek-Turkish border. There was a fence of twelve and a half kilometres since 2011. Another 25 kilometres were added to this fence in 2020. The day before yesterday, another 35 kilometres were signed,” the Minister has confirmed.

According to him, the extension for another 80 kilometres is already being discussed, for which €100 million have been secured from the EU.

Finland Building a Pilot Fence at Eastern Border in Imatra

Begining of constructions for a fence between Finland & Russia © Finland Border Guard RAJA

On February 28, 2023, Finland started removing trees at its border with Russia in Imatra, in order to open the way for the construction of a fence.

Between 2023 to 2025, Finland plans to build around 70 kilometres of border fences, 55 kilometres to Southeast Finland, seven kilometres to North Karelia, and five kilometres to both Kainuuse and Lapland.

The authorities also plan to build a road next to the fence for the movement of border patrols and maintenance work. At the same time, an opening about ten metres wide will be cleared next to the road to enable technical monitoring and to minimise damage caused by falling trees.

Gates have also been planned for the fence to enable the movement of border patrols and animals as well.

So far, the government has proposed a total of €6 million in funding outside the budgeted spending limits for the pilot barrier, which is supposed to be completed by the end of July 2023.

Hungary to Make Border Fence With Serbia Higher

Border fence between Hungary and Serbia | © Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary

The Hungarian authorities are working to increase the height of the border fence with Serbia, as well as strengthen it.

The move comes after the fence has been damaged at several points by migrants illegally passing the borders, and the Hungarian State Secretary Bence Rétváripointed claims that a stronger fence will prevent “Europe from having to bring back border controls.

If Hungary did not protect its border, numerous European countries would have to reinstate checks on their borders, which would not only be an inconvenience when travelling but would also hurt the European economy,” the State Secretary Rétváripointed has said.

This fence has been built between 2015 and 2017, and it is 158 kilometres long. The country had also built a 131 kilometres long fence with Croatia in 2015.

In 2017, the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, had asked the EU to reimburse half of the about €400 million costs of these fences, but such a thing has not happened.

Other Fences Built at EU Borders

550-kilometer-long and 4-meter-high barrier between Lithuania and Belarus | © Ministry of Energy of Lithuania

Bulgaria has a border fence with Türkiye, which is 235 kilometres long and was constructed between 2014 and 2017, whereas Estonia has a fence 104 kilometres long at the external border with Russia, which was built between 2018 and 2021.

Latvia also has a fence with Russia, the construction of which started in 2015 and has still not been finished. The fence is supposed to be 93 kilometres long. At the same time, Latvia is also still constructing a fence with Belarus, since 2021, which will be 36.9 kilometres long.

Similarly, Lithuania has built a fence 502 kilometres long at the border with Belarus, and a 45 kilometres long fence at the border with Belarus. The first was constructed between 1999 and 2022, and the second between 2017-2018.

Slovenia, on the meantime, has a fence with Croatia which is 198.7 kilometres long. Whereas Poland has a 186 kilometres long fence, with Belarus built in 2021.

Other shorter fences are as follows:

  • France – UK (Calais) – a 65 kilometres fence built between 2015 and 2021
  • Norway – Russia (Storskog) a fence of only 0.2 kilometres built in 2016
  • Austria – Slovenia (Spielfeld) – a fence long 3.3 kilometres constructed in 2015-2016
  • Austria–Italy (Brenner) – 0.25 kilometres fence built in 2016

>> EU Countries Continue to Extend Physical Barriers to Prevent Illegal Entry of Migrants