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Borders and border control have long been core concerns of the modern state, yet they have only recently become major topics of social-scientific and popular debate. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, some commentators suggested that the world was on the cusp of a new era of freedom of movement, in which national borders would exert less of a constraining hold over the movement of people. Yet, celebratory accounts of a ‘borderless world’ were short-lived, as new walls and fences sprang up, replacing the geopolitical divisions of the Cold War. According to Andreas (2000, p 140), close cataloguer of the changing nature of borders and border control around the world, this was ‘especially evident along the territorial fault lines between lands of wealth and lands of poverty’, such as along the southern border of the US and the southern and eastern borders of the European Union (EU). During the last decade of the 20th century, and particularly after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, the policing of borders in the global North was ‘transformed from a low-priority and low-maintenance activity into a high-profile campaign attracting growing political attention’ (Andreas, 2000, p 140).

In 2006, for instance, the US government passed the Secure Fence Act, committing over USD1 billion of federal funds for the construction of some 700 miles of steel and reinforced concrete fencing along its southern border with Mexico; while in Europe, as internal border controls have been relaxed between member states of the EU, the patrolling of the EU’s external borders has been intensified.

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