How Europe built fences to keep people out

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
23 PHOTOS
NTP: Europe's abandoned border fences in open-border zones
See Gallery
How Europe built fences to keep people out
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Rattersdorf, Austria, March 8, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Deutschkreuz, Austria, March 8, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
A old custom post is pictured at the border between Belgium and France in Alveringem, March 21, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Rechnitz, Austria, March 8, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
The Valenca customs border is seen in Portugal, March 14, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Miguel Vidal)
An abandoned border check point is seen at the French-Italian border in Valico di Fanghetto, Italy, January 29, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
The old border check point is seen at the French-Italian border in Menton, France, January 29, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Rechnitz, Austria, March 8, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
The border crossing between Austria and Slovakia is seen near Kittsee, Austria, March 7, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
An abandoned border check point is seen at the French-Italian border in Breil Sur Roya, France, January 29, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
A closed and abandoned border check point is seen at the French-Italian border in Olivetta, Italy, January 29, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
A broken window is seen at the border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Rattersdorf, Austria, March 8, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
An abandoned border check point is seen at the French-Italian border in Breil-Sur-Roya, France, January 29, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
A old custom post is seen along a river at the border between Belgium and France in Leers-Nord, March 21, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)
A former border post on the French-German border between Scheibenhard (France) and Scheibenhardt (Germany) has been repurposed as a tourist information office February 24, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
An abandoned border post is seen at the French-German border between Schweyen (France) and Hornbach (Germany) February 24, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
An abandoned border post is seen at the French-German border between Scheibenhard (France) and Scheibenhardt (Germany) February 24, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
French-German border between Seltz (France) and Plittersdorf is seen from the ferry that crosses the Rhine river to Germany, February 24, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
An old and unused police lookout is seen next to the Guadiana river which divides Portugal and Spain near the town of Vila Real de San Antonio, southern Portugal March 17, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo)
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary stands near Pamhagen, Austria, March 7, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
The former French-German border post between Lauterbourg (France) and Berg (Germany) has been repurposed as a restaurant and small museum February 24, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
The border crossing between Austria and Hungary near Nickelsdorf, Austria, March 7, 2016. As European nations struggle to save their open-border Schengen zone from the frontier closures prompted by chaotic movements of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, former border posts from before the era of the European Union's passport-free area languish in various states of repair. (REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

BRUSSELS, April 4 - In early March, Europe's migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos squelched through a muddy refugee camp on Greece's border with Macedonia and peered through the barbed-wire topped fence that stands between tens of thousands of migrants in Greece and richer countries that lie to the north.

"By building fences, by deploying barbed wire," he said, "it is not a solution."

But Avramopoulos has not always preached that message - and his changing views capture the tangle Europe has got itself into as more than a million migrants and refugees have floated in on Greek waters since the start of 2015.

In 2012, when he was Greek minister of defense, Greece built a fence and electronic surveillance system along its border with Turkey. The cement and barbed-wire barrier and nearly 2,000 extra guards were designed to stop a sharp rise in illegal immigrants.

The 62-year-old former diplomat was not directly involved in the project. But in 2013 he defended it, telling a news conference the wall had borne fruit. "The entry of illegal immigrants in Greece by this side has almost been eliminated," he said.

The official European response to Europe's migrant crisis - championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last August - is for member states to pull together and provide shelter for people, especially Syrians, fleeing war or persecution. But in reality, most members have failed to take their quotas of refugees and nearly a dozen have built barricades to try to keep both migrants and refugees out. The bloc is now trying to implement a deal which would see Turkey take back new arrivals.

Related: The most powerful images from the migrant crisis:

31 PHOTOS
Most powerful images from the 2015 migrant crisis
See Gallery
How Europe built fences to keep people out
Migrants protest behind a fence against restrictions limiting passage at the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija, on December 1, 2015. Since last week, Macedonia has restricted passage to northern Europe to only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are considered war refugees. All other nationalities are deemed economic migrants and told to turn back. Macedonia on November 29 finished building a fence on its frontier with Greece becoming the latest country in Europe to build a border barrier aimed at checking the flow of migrants. / AFP / ARMEND NIMANI (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
RIGONCE, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 23: Migrants are escorted through fields by police as they are walked from the village of Rigonce to Brezice refugee camp on October 23, 2015 in Rigonce,, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
AYDIN, TURKEY - JANUARY 22: Turkish Coast Guard personnel help refugees as they swim with buoys, after they toppled over a fishermen dinghy en route to Greece on January 22, 2016 in Didim district of Aydin, Turkey. 4 refugees body including 3 children pulled out of the water as Turkish coast guard personnel rescued 43 others. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOVARNIK, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 20: Migrants desperately try and board a train heading for Zagreb from Tovarnik station on September 20, 2015 in Tovarnik,Croatia. Croatia continues to send buses and trains north to its border with Hungary, as officials have estimated the around 20,000 migrants have entered since Wednesday. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SKALA SIKAMINIAS, GREECE - OCTOBER 03: A woman holds her child as she arrived with other migrants on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on an fishing boat on October 3, 2015 near village of Skala Sikaminias, Greece. Despite bad weather due to the upcoming Autumn, migrants and refugees are risking their lives in search of a better one in the European Union. Officals have warned that a rise in migrant deaths is expected as weather conditions gradually worsen. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
HEGYESHALOM, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 22: Hundreds of migrants who arrived by train at Hegyeshalom on the Hungarian and Austrian border walk the four kilometres into Austria on September 22, 2015 in Hegyeshalom, Hungary. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are holding meetings on the refugee crisis with EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on Wednesday to try and solve the crisis and the dispute of how to relocate 120,000 migrants aross EU states. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A member of the Macedonian police force and a migrant hold an injured boy during a clash between Macedonian police forces and migrant trying to cross an illegal crossing point on the border between Greece and Macedonia near the town of Gevgelija on August 22, 2015. Hundreds of mostly Syrian refugees forced their way over the Macedonian border today as police hurled stun grenades in a failed bid to stop them breaking through, an AFP reporter said. AFP PHOTO / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
GRAPHIC CONTENT A Turkish police officer stands next to a migrant child's dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. Thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Athens on September 2, as Greek ministers held talks on the crisis, with Europe struggling to cope with the huge influx fleeing war and repression in the Middle East and Africa. AFP PHOTO / Nilufer Demir / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY = TURKEY OUT = (Photo credit should read Nilufer Demir/AFP/Getty Images)
CELLE, GERMANY - OCTOBER 27: A young Afghan girl plays outside tents prior moving into a weather-resistant accommodation facility at a shelter for asylum-seekers on October 27, 2015 in Celle, Germany. Many of the tent camps built across Germany to house the massive and recent influx of migrants are inadequate for the coming winter and authorities are scrambling to provide more durable accommodation. Germany has already registered 800,000 migrants this year and is struggling to handle the current flood, which in recent weeks has totaled up to 10,000 per day, mostly migrants arriving via the Balkan route through Austria into Bavaria. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
KOS, GREECE - AUGUST 31: Migrants from Pakistan land on shore after completing a journey in a small dinghy crossing a three mile stretch of the Aegean Sea from Turkey August 31, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Migrants from many parts of the Middle East and African nations continue to flood into Europe before heading from Athens, north to the Macedonian border. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SIKAMINIAS, GREECE - OCTOBER 14: People are assisted moments after they arrive with other Syrian and Iraqi refugees on the island of Lesbos from Turkey on October 14, 2015 in Sikaminias , Greece. Dozens of rafts and boats are still making the journey daily as thousands flee conflict in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. More than 500,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year. Of that number four-fifths of have paid to be smuggled by sea to Greece from Turkey, the main transit route into the EU. Nearly all of those entering Greece on a boat from Turkey are from the war zones of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SUBOTICA, SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Migrants make their way through Serbia, near the town of Subotica, towards a break in the steel and razor fence erected on the border by the Hungarian government on September 9, 2015 in Subotica, Serbia. Thousands of migrants have funnelled their way across country to the small gap in the steel fence unopposed by the authorities. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A migrant, exhausted, rests on the beach after failing to board a boat to the Greek island of Kos on early August 16, 2015 off the shore of Bodrum, southwest Turkey. Authorities on the island of Kos have been so overwhelmed that the government sent a ferry to serve as a temporary centre to issue travel documents to Syrian refugees -- among some 7,000 migrants stranded on the island of about 30,000 people. The early hours are the safest time for migrants travelling from Turkey to the Greek islands just across the water, which have seen a huge influx of refugees escaping the civil war in Syria and chaos in Afghanistan since the beginning of this year. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A young girl holding a stuffed animal crosses railway tracks in front of Macedonian police officers facing migrants demonstrating as they try to get across the border, after she crossed Greek-Macedonian border near Gevgelija along with other migrants and refugees on November 22, 2015. Serbia and Macedonia, which lie on the main migrant route to northern Europe, have begun restricting the entry of refugees to just those from certain countries, the UN refugee agency said on November 19. AFP PHOTO / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A young migrant's hair becomes stuck while crawling under a barbed fence with her family at the Hungarian-Serbian border near Roszke, on August 27, 2015. As Europe struggles with its worst migrant crisis since World War II, Hungary has become, like Italy and Greece, a 'frontline' state. So far this year, police say around 141,500 migrants have been intercepted crossing into Hungary, mostly from neighbouring Serbia. AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Refugees and migrants sail towards the Greek island of Lesbos on October 25, 2015 as they cross the Aegean sea from Turkey. At least three migrants -- two children and a woman -- drowned when their boat sank off the Greek island of Lesbos, the coastguard said, the latest fatalities in Europe's refugee crisis. Around a dozen others, mostly Afghans, are still missing after the rickety vessel, carrying 60 people, went down at dawn as it made the perilous crossing from Turkey, according to the Greek coastguard. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
RIGONCE, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 23: Migrants walk from the village of Rigonce to Brezice refugee camp in tha dark on October 23, 2015 in Rigonce, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A child is passed over a fence as migrants and refugees prepare to board a train heading to Serbia from the Macedonian-Greek border near Gevgelija on October 25, 2015. European Union and Balkan leaders hold emergency talks on Europe's refugee crisis amid threats from three frontline states to close their borders if northern EU countries stop accepting migrants. The mini summit, called by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, groups the heads of 10 EU nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, plus the leaders of Albania, Serbia and Macedonia. AFP PHOTO / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
CALAIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 3 : A migrants camped out in Calais, attempts to climb a security fence near refugee camp of Calais, France on August 3, 2015. More than 2 thousands migrants waiting at Calais forests, hoping to get to Britain, camp out in Calais, on August 3, 2015. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MYTILENE, GREECE - OCTOBER 22: Afghan men argue outside of the main gate as violence escalates for migrants waiting to be processed at the increasingly overwhelmed Moria camp on the island of Lesbos on October 22, 2015 in Mytilene, Greece. Dozens of rafts and boats are still making the journey daily as thousands flee conflict in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. More than 500,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year. Of that number, four-fifths have paid to be smuggled by sea to Greece from Turkey, the main transit route into the EU. Nearly all of those entering Greece on a boat from Turkey are from the war zones of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
DOBOVA, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 22: Migrants are escorted by police through Dobova as they walk to a holding camp on October 22, 2015 in Dobova, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
MIRATOVAC, SERBIA - JANUARY 27: Migrants walk through thick mud as they cross the Macedonia / Serbia border in the southern Serbian village of Miratovac on January 27, 2016 in Miratovac, Serbia. Migrants have been braving sub zero temperatures as they cross the border from Macedonia into Serbia. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Migrants walk in the rain after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija, on November 27, 2015. Since last week, Macedonia has restricted passage to northern Europe to only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are considered war refugees. All other nationalities are deemed economic migrants and told to turn back. Some 800 people are stuck on the border, mostly Iranians, Moroccans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. / AFP / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
CALAIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 01: Migrants contend with wintery conditions in the camp known as the 'New Jungle' on December 1, 2015 in Calais, France. Thousands of migrants continue to live in the makeshift camp in the port town in northern France, where they continue to try and board vehicles heading for ferries or through the tunnel in an attempt to reach Britain. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Syrian refugees are pictured in a camp as Syrians fleeing the northern embattled city of Aleppo wait on February 6, 2016 in Bab al-Salama, near the city of Azaz, northern Syria, near the Turkish border crossing. Turkey on Saturday said it was expecting a huge wave of Syrians fleeing a government onslaught on rebel-held territory, with a regional governor saying at least 70,000 people may be heading for the border. The United Nations said some 20,000 people had gathered at Syria's Bab al-Salam crossing with Turkey. An AFP reporter said the crossing was closed but the Syrian side of it was being supplied by aid trucks coming from Turkey. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
DEREK, SYRIA - NOVEMBER 13: Yazidi refugees celebrate news of the liberation of their homeland of Sinjar from ISIL extremists, while at a refugee camp on November 13, 2015 in Derek, Rojava, Syria. Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq say they have retaken Sinjar, with the help of airstrikes from U.S. led coalition warplanes. The Islamic State captured Sinjar in August 2014, killing many and sexually enslaving thousands of Yazidi women. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
GEVGELIA, MACEDONIA - AUGUST 23: Macedonian special police forces control the departure of migrants to board a train to reach the Serbian Macedonian border on August 23, 2015 in Gevgelia, Macedonia. Thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived on the border between Greece and Macedonia with many trying to travel through Macedonia to reach northern Europe. Macedonian security forces are expected to let several hundred migrants board trains towards Serbia and the rest of Europe. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
LETSCHIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 09: Mohamed Zayat, a refugee from Syria, plays with his daughter Ranim, who is nearly 3, in the one room they and Mohamed's wife Laloosh call home at an asylum-seekers' shelter in Vossberg village on October 9, 2015 in Letschin, Germany. The Zayats arrived approximately two months ago after trekking through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans and are now waiting for local authorities to process their asylum application, after which they will be allowed to live independently and settle elsewhere in Germany. Approximately 60 asylum-seekers, mostly from Syria, Chechnya and Somalia, live at the Vossberg shelter, which is run by the Arbeiter-Samariter Bund (ASB) charity. Vossberg village is located in rural eastern Germany close to the border to Poland, and unlike shelters in southeastern Germany, it has experienced no incidents of right-wing animosity from locals, something an ASB spokesman attributes to strong cooperation between the municipality, schools and citizens' groups and an effective information campaign to educate locals about the newcomers. Germany has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of asylum applicants this year and is struggling to accommodate them. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
ROTHESAY, ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 04: Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute on December 4, 2015 in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland. The Isle of Bute is welcoming 15 Syrian Refugee families as part of the governments plant to give refuge to 20,000 refugees in the UK by 2020. The Isle of Bute, on the Cowal peninsular, has a population of 6,498 which swells in the Summer months due to tourism. The island has been nicknamed the 'Madeira of Scotland' (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The European Union was founded in the ashes of World War Two, in part on a principle of freedom of movement among member states. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, European countries have built or started 1,200 km (750 miles) of anti-immigrant fencing at a cost of at least 500 million euros ($570 million), a Reuters analysis of public data shows. That distance is almost 40 percent of the length of America's border with Mexico.

Many of these walls separate EU nations from states outside the bloc, but some are between EU states, including members of Europe's passport-free zone. Most of the building was started in 2015.

"Wherever there have been large numbers of migrants or refugees trying to enter the EU, this trend has been followed up by a fence," said Irem Arf, a researcher on European Migration at rights group Amnesty International.

For governments, fences seem like a simple solution. Building them is perfectly legal and countries have the right to control who enters their territory. Each new fence in Europe has sharply curbed the numbers of irregular immigrants on the route they blocked.

For at least one company, fences work. The firm which operates a tunnel between France and Britain says that since a major security upgrade around its French terminal last October, migrants have ceased to cause trouble.

"There have been no disruptions to services since mid October 2015, so we can say that the combination of the fence and the additional police presence has been highly effective," Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said.

But in the short term at least, they have not stopped people trying to come. Instead, they have diverted them, often to longer, more dangerous routes. And rights groups say some fences deny asylum-seekers the chance to seek shelter, even though European law states that everyone has the right to a fair and efficient asylum procedure.

Forced to find another way, migrants and refugees often turn to people-smugglers.

CROWD CONTROL

Greece's border fence was one of the first, and Avramopoulos still defends it. He says Greece built it to divert people towards official crossings where they could apply for asylum. Much of Greece's frontier with Turkey is delineated by a fast-flowing river, the Evros. But there is a 12 km stretch where people used to sneak through on land after making the river crossing in Turkey.

"The Evros river is a very dangerous river," Avramopoulos told Reuters in his upper floor office suite in February. "Hundreds of people had lost their lives there."

At least 19 people drowned in the Evros in 2010, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Neither the Greek authorities nor Europe's border agency Frontex could provide more data.

In practice, rights groups say Greece's barrier - and others including one built by Spain in Morocco - effectively turn everyone away, denying vulnerable people a chance to make their case for protection.

This is partly because some new barriers have passport controls like those at an airport. People need travel documents to exit one country and reach the checkpoint of the EU country where they want to seek asylum. Many refugees don't have any papers, so they are automatically blocked.

With barriers come security guards, cameras and surveillance equipment, which all make it harder for people to make their asylum cases. Rights groups have documented many reports of border officials beating, abusing, or robbing migrants and refugees before dumping them back where they came from. This approach, known as push-back, has become an intrinsic feature of Europe's external borders, according to Amnesty International.

As a solution, some migrants and refugees buy fake papers. Others stow away in vehicles. Or they turn to people-smugglers.

Greece's fence had a knock-on effect that continues to ripple through Europe as more countries wall themselves off. More migrants moving through Turkey began to enter Europe across the Bulgarian border, or by sailing to Greece in inflatable dinghies. In the eastern Mediterranean, the International Organization for Migration has recorded more than 1,100 migrant deaths since the start of last year.

CULTURAL PURITY

The EU refuses to fund fences, saying they don't work. As European Commissioner, Avramopoulos has tried instead to persuade fellow member states to show solidarity by offering homes to 160,000 refugees and migrants, mainly from Greece and Italy. As of March 15, just 937 asylum applicants had been relocated.

For Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the idea of quotas is "bordering on insanity." Orban opposes a dilution of Europe's "Christian values" by multicultural immigrants and started building fences along Hungary's borders with Croatia and Serbia in late 2015.

Since the ethnic cleansing of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, Balkan states have been particularly sensitive to the risks of ethnic and religious conflict. Other countries followed Hungary with fences - even if most said they installed them to control the flow of people, rather than to preserve cultural purity.

When Austria started a barrier on its border with Slovenia in November 2015, it said it was necessary for crowd management. Then Austria capped the numbers of people it would admit, and how many it would allow through to Germany. By March, all these measures seemed to be having the desired effect: The number of migrants entering Germany from Austria had fallen more than sevenfold.

Even so, there were new signs the fences were simply reshaping, rather than closing, the migration routes. The numbers making the perilous crossing from Africa to Italy had increased. Austria said it would add soldiers to defend its border with Italy.

The fence Avramopoulos visited last month underlines the risks of such barriers. Built by Macedonia as part of a pact with states further north, it has sealed around 50,000 people into Greece.

More than 10,000 - a third of them children - are camped in flimsy tents near the fence. Many families have refused to leave the border, waiting instead for it to open, as respiratory infections spread and frustration mounts.

"All our values are in danger today," Avramopoulos said. "You can see it here."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners