Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. International Politics
22 November 2021updated 23 Nov 2021 11:03am

How Fortress Europe is becoming a reality

Physical barriers along the EU's borders have proliferated since the 2015-16 refugee crisis.

By Ben van der Merwe

An influx of migrants on the Polish border has led to renewed demands from member states for walls to be built across Europe’s eastern frontier. Physical barriers along the EU’s borders have proliferated since the 2015-16 refugee crisis.


Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has described the country as “under attack”, and has successfully pushed for legislation to begin building a wall along the country’s 410 kilometre border with Belarus. The wall will initially span 100 kilometres, with construction expected to be complete by next summer.

Thousands of migrants are currently stranded at the Polish-Belarussian border, despite Poland’s international obligations to allow entry for those seeking asylum. With temperatures falling as winter approaches, at least 11 migrants are thought to have died so far at the crossing.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Speaking alongside Morawiecki in Warsaw last week, European Council President Charles Michael suggested that the EU might be willing to fund the barriers for the first time, a plan opposed by the French government.

It comes a month after the interior ministers from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia signed a letter demanding that the EU fund physical barriers along its external borders “as a matter of priority”.

Content from our partners
Cyber security is a team game
Why consistency matters
Community safety includes cyber security