The Current

'Always a way to go around': Border walls create insecurity, not remove it, says expert

Funding for U.S. President Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall has led to the longest partial government shutdown in history. While there are dozens of border walls around the world, not everyone is convinced they work. We look at the long history, and lasting consequences, of border walls.

Building a wall drives the flow or people and goods underground, says researcher

U.S. President Donald Trump on a tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, Calif., in March 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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Border walls often increase the insecurity they're intended to stop, according to an academic who has researched the barriers around the world.

"For a while it may look like it is working, but actually it will just reroute and redefine the flows [of people and goods crossing the border]," said Elisabeth Vallet, an adjunct professor and scientific director in geopolitics at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec.

"Sometimes those flows that were taking place in the open will just be more underground, so more dangerous," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"In the end, they are not working."

Sometimes border walls are built to separate two warring groups, Vallet explained, or to block the flow of smugglers and migrants. A rise in populism has increased the number of walls being built globally, as nations suffer "an identity crisis" in the face of globalization.

Military personnel are often posted along them, she said, and organized criminals step in to smuggle the goods, and people, that still want to get across.

But people have used ramps, drones and even catapults to get past border walls and controls, she said.

"There is always a way to go around," she said.

The U.S. government has been in a partial shutdown for more than a month, over a Republican-Democrat deadlock about funding President Donald Trump's proposed wall along the southern border with Mexico.

On Jan. 16, Trump tweeted that 45 countries were planning or building border walls right now, and the ones already built "have all been recognized as close to 100 [per cent] successful."

Trump was referencing research that Vallet was involved with, but she says he didn't get all the facts right.

Trump was right that there are 77 walls — across 45 countries — either already built or under consideration, she said. But she added that to suggest those walls are 100 per cent successful was false.

"The fact that he was distorting my research really bothered me," she said. "As a researcher, I had to set the record straight."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Kristin Nelson and Alison Masemann.