The most heavily fortified EU borders are to prevent migration from Africa to Africa

2 minute read


Where are the most heavily fortified European Union borders? The answer is surprising: It is in Africa. But why did the European Union set up the border in Africa? It is all because of the two small Spanish enclave towns in Africa: Ceuta and Melilla.

Two Spanish enclave towns in Africa: Ceuta and Melilla.

Apart from the history of Spain still having some African territory, what attracts me more is the 6-meter-high double (or even triple) fences. They set up such heavy fences to prevent Africans from moving from Africa to Africa, but still, thousands of people risk their lives to try to breach this fortified border.

The most heavily fortified EU borders are to prevent migration from Africa to Africa. The picture shows the fence surrounding Ceuta.

Why did Spain set up such heavily fortified fences? The obvious reason is to prevent African migrants from entering Europe. But there are deeper reasons for it. Where the Africans want to go in the end is the European continent, rather than two small Spanish towns located in Africa. Geographically, reaching Ceuta and Melilla does not help much since it still takes about one hour’s ferry to reach the European continent. To prevent migrants from reaching the European continent, the Spanish government could set up control to prevent any illegal person from entering the ferry, and in fact, they indeed did it. And there are more places where the distance from Africa to Europe is much shorter. So, what is the incentive for migrants to breach the border to Ceuta and Melilla after all?

The complete story lies in the fact that Ceuta and Melilla are subject to European law. The law gives any person rights (whether with or without an identity document). For example, anyone set on foot in the European territory has the right to apply for asylum, regardless of whether they entered illegally or not. Certainly, not everyone can successfully obtain refugee status, but the deportation procedure afterward may take years by the time the illegal migrant might have already integrated into society, making deportation unlikely to happen.

The paradox: what matters is the border, not human

Within the European countries, there are many laws, volunteers, and associations helping with illegal immigrants, making their lives much better than before. But all those benefits rely on one precondition: they must set their foot on European territory. This is the incentive why they will risk their lives to breach the border to reach Ceuta and Melilla. However, before they satisfy this condition, everything may go against them: no help for their living, and governments set up higher and heavier fences to prevent them from crossing the border. It is a paradox in our humanity today: what really matters is the border, not the human.