Border Digest – 20 December 2015


“This photo seemed to quickly sum up what was happening with the refugees and migrants stuck in Serbia in August of this year. As I was trying to get a picture of the razor wire with the tents in the background, a mother carried her little girl up to the fence. The shiny wire intrigued the baby, and her little hand reaching toward it spoke to me of the longing of so many of the refugees stuck in limbo.” – Laura Reinhardt
(Photo: ©2015 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)


Mexico-United States

The stigma of Syrian nationality appears to have complicated one family’s attempt to claim asylum at the US-Mexico border.

After a relative slowdown this past summer, the number of unaccompanied children trying to cross into the United States is again rising; 10,588 between October 1 and November 30 alone.

According to the Pew Research Center, Mexican migration to the United States is at its lowest level in 40 years.

Tijuana International Airport now features a pedestrian bridge directly to the United States, where ticketed passengers can proceed straight US customs (operated by a private contractor; the bridge is also a private concern) and then to the San Diego area.


Turkey has announced plans for a new border control agency. Turkey has been under pressure to close its borders with Syria and Iraq to fighters and supplies associated with the Islamic State and other militia forces. In related news, NATO forces are being detailed to bolster Turkey’s air defenses along its southern border.

Iraq-Saudi Arabia

An estimated 32 people, some 26 of whom are apparently Qatar nationals, were abducted near the Iraq-Saudi border earlier this week. The identity or motivations of the kidnappers is still unknown, as is the location of the victims. They were taken during a hunting expedition near Layyah, in the Samawa desert, resulting in a confusion of cultural stereotypes and geographical determinism among news-outlets trying to find something to say (or even a file photo to go along with the story). Case in point, this BBC article, which even throws in a reference to Osama Bin Laden.

Mexico-United States-China [?!]

Food without borders: The Innovative Chinese Food Coming out of a Mexican Border Town.

Border Digest – 29 April 2015

BBC schematic, September 2014

The Mediterranean

Last week, more than a thousand migrants drowned while trying to reach European Union territory from Libya.The EU’s solution? Militarize the situation even further by matching a nominal increase in patrols with the preemptive disabling of boats that might be used in human trafficking.

Like in the United States, where enforcement strategies included intentionally pushing migrants into the Arizona desert, the EU’s reliance on risk of death involved in the sea crossing from North Africa to deter migrants isn’t really working; the only tangible result seems to be more deaths.

Mexico/United States

A judge has blocked a lawsuit by the family of 15 year old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, who was shot and killed by the US Border Patrol in June, 2010. The civil suit has no standing, the judge says, because the effect of the shooting was “felt in Mexico” and Sergio had no connection to the United States. Except, of course, being shot from across the Rio Grande by a USBP officer.


Islamic State took responsibility for a car bomb attack on the border crossing at Tureibil.

Saudi Arabia/Yemen

Saudi troops on the Saudi Arabia/Yemen border.

Saudi Arabia continues its military build-up of the border with Yemen. Up to 8 Saudi soldiers have been killed in fighting there during that country’s attack on the Houthi rebel alliance that ousted Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi (who is now living in Saudi Arabia).

Border Digest – 16 November, 2014

Vehicles abandoned on the Syria-Turkey border near Kobani by Syrian refugees fleeing fighting in the city last October. Image by Digital Globe.

United States/Everywhere

As fear of an Ebola outbreak peaked in the (pre-election) United States this October, the disease became the cause de jour of anti-immigration activists and politicians.


The Azerbaijan military shot down an Armenian helicopter over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, killing 3. The region is in Azerbaijan but has been under Armenian military control since a 1994 ceasefire ended one of the many territorial conflicts occasioned by the break-up of the Soviet Union. Some more maps and additional information can be found here.

Iraq/Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced the completion of its border fence along the Iraq-Saudia Arabia border in September. Last year Saudi Arabia began hardening its border with Yemen, too, as reported by the BBC’s Frank Gardner. Both networks of fences and border outposts are ostensibly intended to curb smuggling and improve internal security, but they also confirm Saudi Arabia’s specific interpretation of two long-contested boundaries at at time when neither the Iraqi or Yemini governments are capable of doing much about it.

Further reading:

I really enjoyed Asher Kaufman’s recent article, “Between Permeable and Sealed Borders: The Trans-Arabian Pipeline and the Arab-Israeli Conflict” [IJMES 46 (2014), 95-116]. You can read the article here (scroll to the bottom); the abstract is below.

The Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline), which extended from Dhahran in Saudi Arabia to Zahrani in Lebanon and operated from 1950 to 1982, was haunted by the Arab–Israeli conflict throughout the years of its operation. The route of the pipeline—which traversed Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon—was chosen so as to circumvent Palestine/Israel. However, following the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, Israel became an active participant in this project, with the full consent of the transit states and Egypt. This article uses Tapline as a means to analyze the interconnected world facilitated by oil pipelines, which defies common wisdom about state sovereignty or the function of interstate boundaries. In addition, Tapline demonstrates how this interconnected network created possibilities for Arab–Israeli cooperation that might have seemed inconceivable initially, given the hostile dynamics of the conflict.


Photos: “After Schengen” by Ignacio Evangelista

The abandoned border post of Eisenberg – Vaskeresztes, between Austria and Hungary. Photo by Ignacio Evangelista.

You have to check out the fascinating series of photos by Ignacio Evangelista for his project “After Schengen.” He’s documenting European border crossings abandoned since the implementation of the 1995 Schengen Treaty, which has effectively erased the boundaries between more than two dozen countries.

Border Digest – 1 April, 2014


From the Economist, a map (above) of Syrian territories held by opposition and government forces. I’d take the location and stability of the internal fronts with a grain of salt; there is less dispute over who controls which border crossings.

UN agencies won’t enter countries without permission from the sovereign government, meaning that where polio vaccination and other aid teams are concerned, even rebel-held border crossings on the Syrian/Turkish border effectively remain under Syrian government control. Never one to flinch from collective punishment of civilians, Bashar al-Assad’s government is saying DO NOT ENTER.


Sunni militants in south-east Iran recently kidnapped five Iranian border guards, and Iran wants them back. There are reports that one has been executed.


In Arizona, border citizens monitor a border patrol checkpoint they consider punitive and unnecessary.

Mexico stores some of it’s allotment of Colorado River water behind a dam on the US-Mexico border, and last week, some of it was released to farmers and thirsty wetlands alike.

North Korea/South Korea

Amid joint US-South Korean war-games, North and South Korea shell each others’ ocean.


And from, a map showing every country involved in a border conflict of some kind. The annotated list used to create the map is quite detailed and worth a look.


Border Digest – 28 March, 2014

US/MEXICO: McClatchy’s Tim Johnson on the death of 16 year-old kid in Nogales, shot through the border fence separating the United States and Mexico. At least 10 alleged “rock throwers” have been killed by U.S Border Patrol Agents in recent years.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep just finished touring the 2500 mile US/Mexico border. The stories are excellent, and will be compiled into a digital magazine next week. Here’s a few highlights:

SYRIA/LEBANON: Yabroud, recently taken from rebel control by the Syrian army, is one of many strategic frontier towns that are crucial nodes of control over the notoriously porous Lebanese/Syrian border.

IRAN/IRAQ: Economic and political ties between the Iranian and Iraqi governments are deepening, and last month’s announcement that they would soon (re-)implement the 1975 Algiers Accords addresses one of the oldest and most destructive disputes between the two countries: the location of the Iran-Iraq border, and how to administer the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which, as the following map shows, is the site of numerous Iranian and Iraqi shipping terminals.