Predictably, the most dangerous borders on earth are the ones surrounding warzones. It’s no surprise that the borders in the Middle East and the “Stans” are trouble, but there are plenty of scary borders in Europe and North America, too. Here’s our list of places that you probably already know that you should avoid.
Pakistan / Afghanistan Border
The world’s most dangerous border is an entire region, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwestern Pakistan. Contested for centuries by regional powers and annexed by the British empire in the 1890s (and tracing part of the Durand Line), the largely Pashtun region was only fully incorporated into Pakistan when it was granted the franchise and parliamentary representatives in the 1990s. In fact, the British colonial laws know as the “Frontier Crimes Regulations” still deny residents of the FATA the right to legal counsel and limited detention.
Afghanistan-Pakistan border [Public Domain]
The traditional tribal leaders of the forbidding, mountainous terrain that divides Pakistan from Afghanistan still maintain what passes for “control”, but the region largely remains a lawless haven for heavily-armed domestic and foreign warlords and terrorists. Hey, when you share a border and a roaming population with a country that’s been at war with some invader or another since the mid-nineteenth century, your attitude about extra-constitutional detention and extraordinary rendition might change, too.
India / Pakistan Border
Pakistan has another terrible border: the one it shares with its large, hostile neighbour to the south, India. Kashmir is still contested territory, with Pakistan, India and China all entertaining competing claims to one corner of it or another. The Economist calls this border “the most dangerous in the world”, presumably because of the loose talk of nuclear attack that each country indulges in.
Indian soldiers regularly shoot Kashmiri youths for throwing rocks at them, according to a Telegraph article, which seems like something of an overreaction.
Indian / Bangladesh Border
Not to be outdone, their comrades on the border of India and Bangladesh regularly shoot hundreds of Bangladeshis attempting to climb their razor-wire topped border fence. A tiger or an Indian border guard: which one’s scarier?
India Bangladesh Border [Public Domain]
The Korean Border
The next in our list of neighbourly hostility (resulting from colonial meddling) is Korea. Split in half by a civil war that’s technically not over (North and South Korea still haven’t signed a peace treaty), the 250 kilometre border area hosts two million troops when you include both national armies – and the Americans stationed in the south. South Korea has enhanced the perversity of the DMZ or demilitarized zone by making it into a leading tourist attraction, featuring amusement park-like rides and what the Jaunted blog calls the world’s most dangerous bike path. Don’t consider trying to cross here, and don’t be surprised if the nuclear-armed North is in the middle of flexing its military might with a little shelling nearby, but you probably won’t get many other chances to experience this level of insane militarization first hand. Especially not with so much kimchee nearby.
Kurdistan: the Turkey / Syria Border
Try finding Kurdistan on a map. It isn’t there. Any more. After centuries under Ottoman rulers, Kurds were almost re-granted an independent state after the First World War, but colonial European powers let Ataturk annex most of Kurdish territory for Turkey and divided the rest between Syria, Iraq and Iran. Needless to say, the Kurds were not stoked. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, has long been (and still is, according to a BBC report from February 2012) a thorn in Turkey’s side, and decades of war in Iraq and now brutal repression in Syria have forced thousands to the border. Turkey has been threatening a small military incursion into Syrian territory, according to Turkish paper Today’s Zaman, to create a safe haven for refugees that neatly prevents many more Syrians (and especially Syrian Kurds) from entering Turkey itself. As a Lebanese cab driver once said to me in Montreal, “somebody needs to give those poor people a country.”
The Greece / Turkey Border
Turkey shares another harsh border: its northwestern border with Greece and Bulgaria. As one of the border points between the European Union and Asia, the border along the Evros River sees plenty of refugee traffic and those attempting to immigrate illegally. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency issued a report in 2011 calling the conditions at detention facilities in Greece “inhumane,” overcrowded, unsanitary and rife with exploitation and violence.
Greece, as you may have heard, is having a little economic trouble these days, and might be too distracted to worry about the huddled masses drowning in the river or dying from hypothermia while trying to find a better life in Europe. The Guardian called the detention facilities “disastrously dysfunctional,”. Bad times for Greece. Maybe try crossing in Bulgaria...
The Spanish Border…in Morocco!
...But don’t bother crossing from Morocco to Spain. Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish cities on the Moroccan coast (yet another counterproductive holdover from Europe’s colonial past) which have seen a steady flow of illegal immigration in the last decade. After purging corrupt border agents and building a more secure border fence, Spain has helped curb the entry of illegal African and Middle Eastern immigrants – by land. Spanish islands – both the Canaries and Balearics – are the new destinations, and deaths by drowning have increased accordingly, says Spain’s Courier newspaper.