Human Rights Maps (165): Some of the World’s Most Fortified Borders

comments 5
data / human rights maps / international relations

All national borders are the locus of strict enforcement: there is no country on earth where foreigners can just come in as they wish, and all states are eager to defend the integrity and completeness of their territory and the security of their citizens against attacks by other states or by terrorist infiltrators. Some authoritarian states also use force to keep their people inside their territory.

However, certain borders are fortified more than others. The US-Mexican border, the India-Pakistan border, the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea are among the places where the toughest national security and anti-movement policies are in force. Below are some maps and aerial images that illustrate the extent of these policies.

The US-Mexican border

The US is constructing a border fence in order to stop illegal Mexican immigrants – as well as “terrorists” according to some. This fence currently covers about a third of the border. Right wing politicians want to expand it, even though the non-fenced areas are so remote or rugged as to make a fence pointless or impractical. Together with drone aircraft, helicopters, video surveillance, seismic sensors, infrared sensors, private vigilantes and thousands of border patrol guards in all-terrain vehicles and on horse-back, it has indeed driven down the numbers of illegal immigrants – although the recession has also done its bit.

border fence between the US and Mexico

(source, click image to enlarge)

US Mexico border fence

(source, more on SBInet here)
aerial phot of border at Imperial Beach, CA

aerial photo of border at Imperial Beach, CA



Some question the strength of the US-Mexican border, not always without good reason as can be seen from this image:

Americans and Mexicans playing volleyball over the border in Arizona

Americans and Mexicans playing volleyball over the border in Arizona

The India-Pakistan border

The border between these two countries is hotly contested, especially in the region of Kashmir. India is also wary of terrorist infiltration along the entire border. Sometimes called the “Berlin Wall of Asia”, the border has only one road crossing. Half of the border is floodlit, and hence can be seen from space:

India Pakistan border as seen from the International Space Station

India Pakistan border as seen from the International Space Station (southern part to the right side of this image)

India Pakistan border as seen from the International Space Station

India Pakistan border as seen from the International Space Station (northern part on the left side of this image)


india satellite image


The separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories

To so-called Westbank Barrier between the West Bank and Israel will be approximately 760 kilometres upon completion. In some places it’s a concrete wall. 12% of the West Bank area is on the Israel side of the barrier, meaning that parts of the occupied territories captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 are now “in Israel”. The main rationale for the barrier is protection against terrorist incursions, specifically by suicide bombers. The barrier severely disrupts free movement in the Westbank as well as access to Israel for Palestinians working there. Some Jewish settlers, on the other hand, condemn the barrier for appearing to renounce the Jewish claim to the whole of the “Land of Israel”.

Westbank barrier


Westbank barrier


The DMZ between North and South Korea

Since the end of the Korean war, there’s a country-wide demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, cutting the Korean Peninsula roughly in half along the 38th parallel. It’s 250 kilometres long – plus extensions into the sea – and approximately 4 km wide. It’s the most heavily militarized border in the world.

Korean dmz map

Korean dmz map


The South has discovered four tunnels crossing the DMZ, dug by North Korea. The North claimed they were for coal mining but no coal has been found in the tunnels, which are dug through granite. Some of the tunnel walls have been painted black to give the appearance of anthracite. Not very cunning. The tunnels are believed to have been planned as military invasion routes.

The border is visible from space at night, not because it’s floodlit but because of the large difference in electricity use between the prosperous South and the impoverished North:

North Korea at night satellite image


And, no, it’s not dark because they’re all building tunnels…

Here’s an overview:

fortified borders


border walls and fences map

(source, click image to enlarge)

All these borders are sad reminders of humanity’s penchant for xenophobia, exclusion, parochialism, national hostility and war. And a testimony to almost universally shared misconceptions about property rights over the earth, about freedom of movement and about the value of diversity and equal opportunity.

More human rights maps here. More on satellite images and human rights here.


  1. Pingback: Iconic Images of Human Rights Violations (85): Firing Squad in Mexico | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  2. Pingback: Human Rights Maps (180): The Death Toll of Illegal Immigration | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

  3. Pingback: Some of the World’s Least Fortified Borders, A Collection of Images | P.a.p.-Blog // Human Rights Etc.

  4. Daniel says

    You don’t have to be Xenophobic to try and stop illegal immigration and it is certainly not a violation of human rights. The illegal immigrants that come into the US from the US-Mexican border, take up jobs (because they tend to be willing to work more cheaply), often bring illegal drugs into the US (it’s not a stereotype it’s true), and because they don’t pay taxes, every time they go to a hospital they take money from the health care system without putting anything back in, as they do in most cases. I have no problem with people coming into America legally (I was born and raised in Virginia), but I do care if they come in illegally.

  5. Pingback: Migration and Human Rights (52): Remote Border Controls, Or How to Deal With Poor People On the Move | P.a.p.-Blog // Human Rights Etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s