Source: Schengen Visa Info
The increasing number of illegal migrants entering the European Union and Schengen Area Member States has prompted states to take a variety of measures to combat their activity, including the construction of walls or physical barriers at borders.
...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.
According to an official document presented to Members and staff of the European Parliament in 2022, physical barriers at 19 EU external borders increased from 315 km to 2,048 km between 2014 and 2022.
This means that by 2022, when the report was published, approximately 13%, or 1,535 kilometers, of the EU's external land borders had been fenced off.
"Two main official reasons for building border fences are put forward: to prevent irregular migration and combat terrorism," the document states.
It also reveals that Spain built the first border fences in Europe in the early 1990s to prevent irregular migration into its Moroccan enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. However, the number of fences across Europe has primarily increased since the 2015/2016 migrant crisis.
The tensions, and then Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have also pushed several EU countries on the eastern border to construct new fences with Belarus and Russia.
Some of the most recent fences built by EU countries include the extension of the Evros fence between Greece and Turkey, the fence that Finland recently began building in Pelkola of Imatra, near the Russian border, and the fence that Hungary and Serbia recently raised.
Greece Expanding Border Fence With Türkiye by Another 35 Kilometers
Border fence between Greece & Turkiye | © Official Twitter account of the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis
The border fence between Greece and Turkey, built by Hellenic authorities in an effort to further prevent illegal migration from their non-EU neighbor, is already 37.5 kilometers long. However, Greece is working to extend this fence by an additional 35 kilometers.
Furthermore, Notis Mitarakis, Minister of Immigration and Asylum, stated in an interview with SKAI TV that the fence on the Evros will be extended to the entire 200-kilometer land border with Turkey in the future.
"The KYSEA decision is to cover the entire 200-kilometer or so Greek-Turkish border." Since 2011, there has been a twelve-and-a-half-kilometer fence. In 2020, another 25 kilometers were added to this fence. "Another 35 kilometers were signed the day before yesterday," the Minister confirmed.
According to him, an extension of another 80 kilometers is already being discussed, for which the EU has provided €100 million.
Finland Building a Pilot Fence at Eastern Border in Imatra
Beginning of construction for a fence between Finland & Russia © Finland Border Guard RAJA
Finland began removing trees along its border with Russia in Imatra on February 28, 2023, in order to pave the way for the construction of a fence.
Finland intends to construct approximately 70 kilometers of border fences between 2023 and 2025, 55 kilometers to Southeast Finland, seven kilometers to North Karelia, and five kilometers to both Kainuuse and Lapland.
The authorities also intend to construct a road adjacent to the fence to facilitate border patrol movement and maintenance work. Simultaneously, a ten-meter-wide opening next to the road will be cleared to allow for technical monitoring and to minimize damage caused by falling trees.
Gates are also planned for the fence to allow border patrols and animals to pass through.
So far, the government has proposed a total of €6 million in funding for the pilot barrier, which is expected 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
Hungarian authorities are working to strengthen and raise the height of the border fence with Serbia.
The move comes after the fence was damaged at several points by illegal migrants, and Hungarian State Secretary Bence Rétvári 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 be forced to reintroduce border checks, which would not only be inconvenient for travelers but would also harm the European economy," said State Secretary Rétváripointed.
This 158-kilometer-long fence was constructed between 2015 and 2017. In 2015, the country also built a 131-kilometer-long fence with Croatia.
The country's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, requested reimbursement from the EU for half of the approximately €400 million cost of these fences in 2017, but this has not occurred.
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 235-kilometer-long border fence with Turkey that was built between 2014 and 2017, whereas Estonia has a 104-kilometer-long fence with Russia that was built between 2018 and 2021.
Latvia also has a border fence with Russia, the construction of which began in 2015 and has yet to be completed. The fence is supposed to stretch for 93 kilometers. At the same time, Latvia began construction on a 36.9-kilometer-long border fence with Belarus in 2021.
Similarly, Lithuania has constructed a 502-kilometer-long fence along its border with Belarus, as well as a 45-kilometer-long fence along its border with Belarus. The first was built between 1999 and 2022, while the second was built between 2017 and 2018.
Slovenia, on the other hand, has a 198.7-kilometer-long border fence with Croatia. Poland has a 186-kilometer-long fence, which Belarus plans to build in 2021.
Other shorter fences are as follows:
France – UK (Calais) – a 65 kilometers fence built between 2015 and 2021
Norway – Russia (Storskog) a fence of only 0.2 kilometers was built in 2016
Austria – Slovenia (Spielfeld) – a fence long 3.3 kilometers constructed in 2015-2016
Austria–Italy (Brenner) – 0.25 kilometers fence built in 2016