Building walls to keep people out: is it ever right?


Throughout history, many walls have been built with the purpose of keeping people out, for example The Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall and more recently Greece’s border fence.

Talking about these walls got us thinking: is it ever right to build a wall to keep people out of a country?

We thought about the Peace Walls that were built out of stone and steel in various areas of Northern Ireland to keep Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland separate (in effect, to keep people from killing each other during the period known as The Troubles). They were built to protect neighbourhoods and restore some sense of peace and, although they are no longer necessary as the killing has stopped, they still remain and have even become tourist attractions for visitors to sign! If these walls had never been built, many more people would have died, so of course the outcome was a positive one. However, we’re still not convinced that it is morally right to separate people, regardless of the reason behind it. This process of building walls to separate countries can lead to discrimination and division of communities, when what we should really be doing is bringing people closer together to solve our issues.

The Hungarian Border Barriers have been built to stop refugees entering the country. We can understand some of the reasoning behind this wall: the number of illegal enteries into Hungary was rapidly increasing, which would not have been good for the country. Some European leaders have argued that barriers are necessary to protect their countries from criminals and would-be terrorists among them, with Viktor Orban, Hungary's prime minister, even going so far as to say that “Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk."

However, there are also moral issues that come along with this. Those seeking asylum in Hungary now can only do so in two border zones, and under a recent law migrants have been detained and held in shipping containers. The Hungarian government has been accused of depriving asylum seekers of food and medical services at the Kiskunhalas camp, with local residents having to step in to provide supplies. This is horrible and simply not right! Shouldn't we want to help those who are suffering rather than making things harder for them??

What do you think? Can you think of any examples where it was right for a wall to be built? Or do they always have negative effects on the communities they are built to separate?

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