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Walls Are Popular Again, and Not Just Due to Donald Trump

By: Priscila Guinovart - @PrisUY - Sep 18, 2016, 6:30 pm
(Diario Inédito) Trump
Pretending this is a battle of good versus evil won’t help us solve the migration problem. (Diario Inédito)

EspañolTalks of a wall nowadays are very likely to be associated with the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump‘s delirious ambitions on the United States border with Mexico.

But walls have become fashionable, and not just among US conservatives.

The French port city of Calais is today one of the epicenters of the migration crisis in Europe. Also known as “the jungle of Calais,” refugee settlements in the area have triggered such a large conflict that British authorities are now seriously discussing the construction of a wall to prevent access from France via the Eurotunnel.

By July 2016, the settlements had over 7.300 refugees. These people do not want to remain in France, but to move to the British Isles, where they believe will have a better life.

For this purpose, there are migrants who resort to questionable methods such as attacking truckers with sticks and stones so they can get into their vehicles to enter the U.K. or just to protest both governments for the precarious situation they are living in.

The crisis has led truckers to strikes and demonstrations. They have also tried — and failed — more than once to block the port and its surroundings.

However, what is new in this part of Europe is the idea of a wall, not the settlements in Calais, whose origin could be traced back to the late 1990s. The “jungle” was created by the French Red Cross in 1999, and in 2002 then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy closed it in an attempt to curb illegal migration.

A five-meter tall fence already protects the port amid heavy policing by France. In 2015 alone, the U.K. invested over £9 million in securing the area.

The truth is that neither France nor the U.K. can deal with the thousands of refugees that remain in Calais. Brexit came just at the right time for French authorities, who claim that following the referendum the U.K. should take care of migrants and move them to their own territory. This was the position of Emmanuel Macron, the former French Economy minister who recently resigned to run for president.

Europe’s refugee crisis has strengthened nationalist parties throughout the continent: Alternative for German (AfD) already won its first elections in Angela Merkel’s home state; the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has high chances of winning the elections; and in France the almost eternal Marine Le Pen has also grown in popularity according to the latest polls.

Walls take us back to humanity’s darkest periods, but the situation in Europe and the United States is more complex than a battle of good versus evil. No extreme measure has been beneficial in the history of mankind.

A political analyst in Munich told me that the Berlin Wall is the “obvious parallel” of the possible wall in Calais. This, however, is a mistaken observation: while the “wall of shame” aimed to keep Germans inside the wall, those of Trump and the UK intend to keep the people out.

Living conditions in Calais are very poor, donations are running out, and the future is uncertain. To say that no human being deserves to live like this is more than obvious.

I reiterate, though, that simplification is not the right approach. After all, even the most humanitarian kind of people do not sleep with their doors wide open.

Priscila Guinovart Priscila Guinovart

Priscila Guinovart is an Uruguayan teacher and writer. She has written for outlets in Latin America, the U.S., and Europe. While in London, she wrote her book La cabeza de Dios. Follow her: @PrisUY.