Migrants walk through the harbour of Calais, France, 7 September 2016. Photo: Reuters

By James McAuley and Michael Birnbaum
29 September 2016

CALAIS, France (Washington Post) – So far, Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border is all talk. Last week, France and Britain actually began building one along theirs.

Construction started here on a roughly mile-long concrete barrier intended to separate a sprawling migrant camp from the tunnels that offer passage to Britain, the latest attempt in what has become a global effort to throw physical barriers in the way of historic streams of human migration.

From a razor-wire-topped border fence in Hungary to the sealed border of Macedonia and Greece to Trump’s proposed wall , polarized societies across the world are finding that they can unite around keeping others at bay.

The “Great Wall of Calais,” as the project is informally known, is considerably shorter than Trump’s proposed partition of the United States and Mexico, but its message is much the same: keep out. The concrete wall, which will rise to 13 feet, extends a fence near the sprawling Calais migrant camp known as the “Jungle,” where more than 7,000 migrants have been stranded as they seek to enter Britain by all means possible. The concrete will be specially formulated to make it difficult to scale.

The camp here has become one of the most visible symbols of Europe’s migration crisis: a squalid no man’s land nestled between London and Paris, two of Europe’s wealthiest cities. The victorious British campaign to leave the European Union was partly fueled by concerns over immigration, while candidates for France’s presidential elections next year are already competing over being tough on migrant flows. Opponents of French President François Hollande have tried to turn the camp into a symbol of his weakness.

“It’s something scary, this resignation, this lack of authority,” France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy said while visiting Calais last week. Sarkozy’s campaign to recapture the presidency has pulled anti-immigrant rhetoric from the surging far-right National Front party, which has vowed to reestablish controls at France’s borders. […]

The wall will “prevent illegals trying to get to the U.K.,” British Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the House of Commons this month, defending the initiative against critics who called it a waste of money. […]

“The wall is not important,” said Tariq Shinwari, a 26-year-old business administration graduate from Afghanistan who said he had lived in the Jungle for six months. “People in here do not care about the wall — they care about the demolition. We have minors in here. If they demolish the camp, where will they go?” [more]

France and Britain just beat Donald Trump to building a border wall

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