This module discovers what migration is and enables us to trace our own migration history

Fortress Europe

  1. „Every person has the right to move freely within a state and to choose his place of residence freely.
  2. Every person has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his homeland.“
Article 13 of the Universal Bill of Human Rights

Borders and entry regulations restrict this human right worldwide.

One of the world's regions, which demonstrates the problem of restricting human rights, is the EU and United States borders, to which many people come in search of better opportunities in life.


The international boundary between the United States and Mexico is 3144 km long and is one of the world's most frequently crossed borders. In 2006, nearly 250 million legal crossings were counted. The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Ecuador is estimated at 350,000.

Mostly young men from Central America sit in their hundreds on the roofs of freight trains to travel thousands of miles to reach the Mexico-USA border. To restrict illegal immigration, the United States began to build a border wall, which was intended to be 1125 km long, and secured the border with about 6,000 guards.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon compared the expansion of border installations with the Berlin Wall and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International also criticized the construction. The number of people who die while trying to cross illegally, is estimated at 250-500 per year. In 2010 alone, 253 people died attempting to traverse the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona.

Explore the photo series from the German news channel n-tv. It shows pictures of the USA – Mexico border. Let the images make an impression on you.

EU – Africa

Since the establishment of the EU, the borders between the EU countries have been gradually brought down. At the same time the EU has strengthened its external borders more and more. This led to the phrase "fortress Europe".

In Europe, the Mediterranean countries are in the public eye. From Spain, Italy, Greece, one always sees images in the media of immigrants and refugees, particularly from Africa, wishing to enter the crowded wooden boats to Europe. Often people wait for months, some even years, for a crossing from Morocco and other African Mediterranean countries. In Morocco, according to estimates of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Rabat, there are about 20,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa, who want to reach Spain.

In order not to leave countries such as Spain, Italy or Greece “alone“ at the EU's external borders, a European Agency was established for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, short Frontex (in French "Agence européenne pour la gestion de la coopération opérationnelle aux frontières extérieures"). It is a joint agency of the European Union based in Warsaw, which is meant to protect the EU's external borders against illegal immigrants.

Watch the most common routes for illegal immigrants, as represented by Frontex itself. Keep in mind, however: The main immigration routes are still available by air. Many migrants move on a tourist visa and after expiration of the visa stay "illegally".

Here you can see how Frontex secured the Mediterranean in 2009: http://clandestinenglish.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/keyseaoperationfrontex.jpg

Many human rights organizations criticize Frontex in connection with military anti-refugee defenses in the Mediterranean region. Refugees apprehended at sea have the right to apply for asylum. They should not be pushed back if they may face persecution or ill-treatment. According to the organization Pro Asylum, about 8100 people have died traveling to the EU's external borders in the 20 years up to 2008, in 2007 alone there were about 2000.

Refugees from Senegal in 2009 described how their boat was placed at sea: "We only had to sail for three more days when we were stopped by a police boat. They did not give us water. They threatened to destroy our boat unless we turned around immediately. We were almost dying of thirst and had dead bodies on board. Nevertheless, we had to return to Senegal."