Do Border Walls Work? And Are They Humane?

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Photo: Flickr

In an age of epic walls, the Walls of Constantinople were the envy of the medieval era. Built during antiquity by emperor Constantine the Great to defend the Roman Empire’s new home, the legendary walls successfully defended the city from foreign invaders for nearly a thousand years, until the Ottoman Empire’s devastating 1453 siege. Constantinople, along with the Eastern Roman Empire, was suddenly no more–-and the city of Istanbul was born.

Throughout history, societies have continually erected walls to keep people out–or in. Most of these efforts have ultimately been failures. It’s the same story even in Hollywood films: in the 1979 film King Kong, terrified villagers build a giant wall to keep out the iconic beast. Their efforts proved so wildly unsuccessful that not only did Kong kidnap Dwan (then unknown ingénue Jessica Lange) but also maul the Empire State building.

For my latest CNBC story, I interviewed several experts in conflict resolution, migration and refugee studies to get the lowdown on the world’s most controversial border walls, from Israel’s West Bank Wall to the many walls currently being erected across Europe.

The consensus? Walls are dangerous. And they simply don’t work.