Unless you live under the largest rock, it’s unlikely you’ve managed to get through the last few years without hearing about the US/Mexico border. The 3,201-kilometer border is the most frequently crossed in the world and provided one of the main discussion points in America’s 2016 Presidential Election. While the stretch is manned by 20,000 patrol guards, they’re mostly located in the major cities of each country, meaning that the large stretches of desert remain mostly unguarded. This means that the 500,000 immigrants a year who try to cross the border illegally are pushed into dangerous areas like the El Paso-Juarez. Notorious for its drug, weapon and human trafficking, you may recognize the area as it was featured heavily in AMC’s Breaking Bad. Due to less regulated criminal activity and a general lack of resources, several hundred lose their lives In these desert regions each year. At an estimated cost of between $20 and $70 Billion, the strong debate is ongoing over how effective President Trump’s Border wall will be in combating these dangers. But these questions will soon be answered, with construction set to begin in 2018.
‘The Radcliffe Line’, which separates India and Pakistan is one of the only borders that can be seen from space, because of the high voltage floodlights used along the Indian side of its 2900 Kilometer stretch. These measures give an impression of just how closely guarded the border is, with some considering it the most militarized border in the world. The border has existed since the 1947 partition of India, where casualties reached hundreds of thousands. The two countries have fought in three wars since and spent at least 25 years in a dispute over the Kashmir province with fatalities estimated anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000. The tension of this split has made for a hostile border in the years following, with the effects having worldwide ramifications. In the 1990s, Pakistan helped create the fundamentalist group The Taliban in a move to undermine India’s allies in Afghanistan. The development each country has made in their nuclear armament is also a serious cause for global concern.
3. North/South Korea
The Korean Demilitarized Zone that separates the country’s North and South regions comes complete with barbed wire, landmines, and heavily armed troops. At 250 Kilometers long and 4 Kilometers wide, the Demilitarised Zone was established to quell the volatility of the border between the two countries. But regular outbreaks of violence suggest this was unsuccessful. Those who live near the Demilitarized zone report stray bullets frequently flying past and even into their houses. The two nations have been warring for over 60 years, with each refusing to acknowledge the other’s independence as a sovereign state. Violence regularly occurs when people try to smuggle information into North Korea with balloons – which will be shot down and replied to with artillery fire – and when North Koreans try to cross the zone to defect, activating the shoot on sight policy for crossing without permission. Because of the secrecy and lack of information leaving North Korea, exact statistics from both sides of the border are hard to ascertain. Hundreds of casualties have been reported as a direct result of military action since the establishment of the Demilitarized Zone, including around 50 Americans. On top of this, regular disappearances and unclaimed assassinations are reported in the region.
The Golan Heights, between Israel and Syria, has been subjected to almost 100 years of contestation. This and other land disputes have led to three major wars between the two countries. This conflict is alive today, with bullets and shells flying on either side and many tipping the two countries to break into another war imminently. Israel officially regards Syria as an enemy state. They have no diplomatic relations, limited movement of people and trade is limited to a few apples delivered to the Golan Druze villages, located on both sides of the ceasefire line.
This ceasefire line has been a constant source of volatility, with control slipping significantly since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, which is ongoing as of 2017. Since the start of the war, around 40 soldiers have been killed at the ceasefire line, mostly Syrian, as well as 9 civilian casualties, only one of which was Israeli.
At 4,096 Kilometres long, the border between Bangladesh and India is one of the longest in the world and provides a strong argument in America for those who oppose plans for a border wall. The whole stretch of land bordering the two countries is marked by a fence, which costs the country a lot to maintain and most believe has little to no effect on the influx of Indian terrorists into Bangladesh, as was the intention.
Along the border are several confusing areas, where Indian land is surrounded by Bangladeshi territory within Indian territory. This means that inhabitants of the area face the regular struggle of having to cross the dangerous border for work or to visit family. Because of hostility between the countries, and guards’ inability to properly deal with illegal immigrants and smugglers, Indian Border Security Forces have a shoot on sight policy for any suspicious individuals, which they regularly abuse. According to a study by Human Rights Watch, this led to over 1,000 Bangladeshi deaths between 2000 and 2010, some of whom were simply approaching the border to cultivate their own land.
6. China/North Korea
With everything you know about North Korea, it shouldn’t surprise you to know they don’t have friends on any of their borders. Unlike the South-Korean border, the security at their Chinese border is limited, making it a popular exit for North Koreans fleeing the country. Despite the fact the two countries are officially allies and trade partners, this influx of immigrants has to lead to numerous territorial debates over where the border should lie. Since Kim Jong Un inherited North Korean leadership from his father in 2011, reports of defectors committing thefts and murders have risen, and in 2015 one rogue North-Korean soldier killed four Chinese citizens of Korean descent. Crimes like these are frequent as the Korean Border guards are often underfed and underpaid, and so regularly cross the border to steal food. Tensions were especially high in April 2016, when reports of nuclear testing in the Korean city of Pyongyang lead China to deploy 2,000 troops to the border. Tests like these have continued into 2017, with one School in the Chinese border city of Yanji having been evacuated because of the shaking ground caused by a nearby Nuclear test.
7. Yemen/Saudi Arabia
For over 65 years, the 1,800-kilometer border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen was an area of sporadic violence between the two warring nations. In 2000 however, things seemed to be improving, as the countries reached a border treaty. This calmed violence for some time, until the increasing smuggling of weapons, refugees, and terrorists, as well as the partial building of a border wall, stoked tensions again. When Saudi Arabia attempted to intervene in the Yemeni Civil War, the border became an area of intense danger for soldiers and civilians alike, and as of 2015, the countries were officially at war again. Asked about the condition of the border, one Saudi general stated: “Now our rules o engagement are: you are close to the border, you are killed”. This lead to an estimated 375 Civilians having lost their lives in the conflict as of 2016.
But the blame lies on both sides, with 15 missiles and 130 mortars being launched into Saudi Arabia every day of the war.
Nigeria and Chad’s relations have been strained in the past, with most border conflicts arising over bids for oil, but in general, these two countries have a considerably stronger relationship than most entries on this list. What makes their border so dangerous is the insurgency of Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terror groups in the world. Attacks by the group in Nigeria have taken around 20,000 lives and sent millions of people fleeing across the border to seek refuge in Chad. But stationed Boko Haram fighters at the border make this a dangerous trip to make, with violence in the border town of Bosso alone having sent 17,000 Nigerians into Chad to escape. To combat the terror, the two countries have had joint army operations since 2015, and Chad has deployed thousands of soldiers to fight the terrorist group. Sadly, of these troops, 32 have lost their lives since their arrival in Nigeria. The only silver lining here would be the fact that this number is lower than the 55 terrorists who the forces have also died.
After Columbia’s 44 years Civil War, military forces began in 2008 to overpower the rebel group The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
But in doing so, many of the group’s forces have made camps in Ecuador along the San Miguel River. The group, who were responsible for over 200,000 deaths in 2016 have caused a significant increase in conflict on both sides on the border, using mortars and landmines to force indigenous inhabitants to leave their tribal land. In 2016 the murder rates in these border towns rose as high as 96 in 100,000 people, compared to a global rate of 6.2 as reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2012. The situation has only been exacerbated by the intervention of the Colombian Military, who frequently cross the border to combat the rebel group. The Ecuadorian president took issue with this, stating that the Colombian military had no permission to do so, to which Colombia responded by accusing Ecuador of harboring terrorists.
This indecision over the treatment of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has meant that conflict at the Columbia/Ecuador border is ongoing as of 2017.
Established by British Diplomat Sir Mortimer Durand in 1896, the ‘Durand Line’, which separates Pakistan and Afghanistan was intended to fix diplomatic relations between the two countries. This was ultimately a failed attempt, with Afghanistan only once having officially recognized the border and every leader since having refuted it. Their former President even went on record in 2017 to say that the Afghan people will never recognize the Durand Line. The border has since become a regular site for violent encounters between the two countries’ militaries, as well as regular interventions from the Taliban and the US Government. Since George Bush’s presidency began in 2001, America has carried out thousands of drone strikes concentrated at the northwest border of Pakistan, with leaked military documents revealing in that only 13% of deaths incurred were the intended targets. 81% of losses were other “militants”, and the remaining 6% were civilians. In 2007, Pakistan began constructing a fence at the border to stop the advancements of the Taliban and other Afghan military groups, but acts like these often aggravate Afghanistan. Most recently, in 2017 a dispute over a Pakistani-constructed gate lead to a skirmish which left at least 15 dead on both sides, including 5 women and children.