FACT CHECK: Have Israeli and Hungarian Border Walls ‘Proven Remarkably Effective’?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Fox host Tucker Carlson claimed that “in Israel and in Hungary, walls have proven remarkably effective at controlling who crosses borders” during a Thursday segment.

Citing Israel’s and Hungary’s border wall initiatives, Carlson suggested that President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border could effectively stem illegal immigration. “That’s why Democrats oppose [a wall] on our border,” Carlson continued, “not because it won’t work, but precisely because it will work.”

Verdict: True

Migration data confirm Carlson’s claims. The erection of border walls successfully brought down unwanted migration into both Israel and Hungary.

Fact Check:

The Daily Caller News Foundation examined migration data for Israel and Hungary before and after both nations erected border walls. To evaluate Carlson’s claim, TheDCNF sought to analyze if the Israeli and Hungarian walls accomplished what an American border wall would aim to accomplish- stymieing unwanted migration.

Geopolitical and economic instability in northeastern Africa, namely in Eritrea and civil war-struck Sudan, spurred a wave of migration into Israel in the early-to-mid-2000s. Israeli government data reveals that while less than 2,700 “infiltrators” or migrants had illegally crossed into Israel in the decades before 2006, almost 5,000 did in 2007 alone.

Annual flows of illegal migration into Israel peaked in 2011 when 17,268 illegal aliens crossed over into Israel.

Israel’s initially lax policy towards migrants changed following political and social backlash at growing flows of (mostly male) foreigners entering, living and working in the country. Following a near half-decade long push, construction on a wall on Israel’s southern border began in late 2010.

After the wall finished construction in early 2013, illegal immigration almost immediately grinded to a halt.

There were a total of 42 attempted or successful illegal border crossings in 2014, a year after the wall’s completion – down 99.5 percent from over 10,000 in 2012, a year before the wall’s completion.

Hungary experienced a similar problem with unwanted migration beginning in 2014.

Following several political and humanitarian crises across the Middle East and North Africa, flows of refugees and migrants into the European Union (EU) surged. Hungary’s strategic position as the gateway to wealthy, pro-refugee western Europe from the Balkans placed undue stress on the central European country’s society and government.

Public Hungarian Police data of migrant flows only stretch back to January 2015 when the refugee crisis was already underway, but the data demonstrate a clear trend of surging migration after March 2015.

In June 2015, the Hungarian Government announced it would erect a barrier along its southern border with Serbia. The border barrier finished construction in September 2015. It was extended to seal Hungary’s southwestern border with Croatia in October 2015.

Migration flows decreased significantly as a result of the border barrier system.

Nearly 100,000 migrants crossed over into Hungary in October 2015. This decreased by 99.6 percent in November 2015 – after Hungary sealed its southern borders with both Serbia and Croatia – to just 315 migrants.

In the time since the wall’s completion, illegal flows of migrants have averaged just over 900 each month, a fraction of the over 41,000 migrants per month average between January 2015 and October 2015.

The exact role these walls have played in stemming migration, however, is a matter of debate.

Commentators have underscored that Israel’s southern border wall is one of many initiatives meant to combat illegal immigration. Israel has, for instance, also reformed migrant detainment laws, legislated restrictions on remittances, and even offered migrants free (one-way) plane tickets along with $3,500 in cash to leave the country.

Hungary’s border wall also involves an around-the-clock patrol network comprised of paid civilian “border hunter” volunteers and a large-scale deployment of the Hungarian Police and military. These border personnel were moreover supported by backup from Hungary’s close allies of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

The data and facts still support Carlson’s characterization of the Israeli and Hungarian border walls as success stories; both Israeli and Hungarian government officials have credited their walls for successfully slashing illegal border infiltrations.

On the other hand, the Eritrean and Sudanese migration flows that Israel once absorbed and built a wall to stop have continued crossing over into Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Italy and other EU nations.

The refugee and migrant crisis that spurred Hungary to build its wall, although having improved since its peak in 2015, has similarly continued after the wall went up. Hungary’s wall was so successful that neighboring Slovenia struggled to handle the now diverted migration flow.

Continuing migration confirm that Israel’s and Hungary’s border walls have been effective – the walls did not go up coincidentally when migration went down; the walls indeed insulated both countries from unabated migration flows.

Carlson’s claim that Israeli and Hungarian border walls have “proven remarkably effective” at blocking cross-border migration is true.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter

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