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The borders that we draw between countries are often much more complicated than a line on a map. There are long borders, countries that border many other countries, countries that only border one other country, and even two doubly landlocked countries. The following is a list of countries whose borders are known to be quite tumultuous and dangerous, and in some cases, are impassable.
One of the most dangerous borders in the world lies between Iraq and Iran, running exactly from the Shatt-al-Arab river to the Turkish border. Though the boundary has been defined for hundreds of years, disputes over the territory (specifically, over use of the river) have been ongoing. In 1980, Iraq accused Iran of illegally occupying Iraqi territory and launched missiles. Eight years and 1 million lives later, the two countries signed a UN peace resolution. Even this, however, did not stop fighting, and cross-border attacks have continued.
The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is called the Durand Line and stretches for 1,510 miles. The disputes here date back over many years and in recent times, the border was disputed by the Taliban and later the Afghanistan president in 2001. In 2003, military forces from both sides were involved in armed conflict there and 4 years later, Pakistan began constructing fence lines as a means to keep Taliban militants from crossing. The danger here is in the lack of government control with people on all side carrying arms, and this site sees illegal smuggling, murders, and kidnappings. Most recently, a major highway connecting the two countries was closed down due to a disagreement over a Pakistani-constructed gate. The dispute ended in cross-border shootings that left 3 dead and 24 wounded.
9. China/North Korea
China and North Korea are separated by two rivers, the Tumen and Yalu, and the Paektu mountains. The border here has poor security and receives many people fleeing North Korea. Over the last decade, both countries have begun to construct fences and walls. Since the beginning of Kim Jong-Il’s regime and with increased North Korean immigrants in China, territorial disputes have become a concern. There have also been reports of North Korean soldiers crossing the border to steal food and money as low-level officers receive small food rations. In April 2016, China deployed around 2,000 troops to the border after reports that Pyongyang is planning nuclear testing. China has confirmed that 3 Chinese citizens were killed along the border, investigations are pending.
Disputes between Colombia and Ecuador have increased in recent years due to a Colombian rebel group referred to as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the People’s Army or FARC). On various occasions, the Colombian government has sent military troops into Ecuadorian territory in an attempt to attack the group. FARC members have invaded land along the border and are an extremely violent group using mortars and landmines which have forced thousands of indigenous members off of their tribal land. This group is responsible for killing over 200,000 people in the last fifty years. Recent murder rates in border towns have reached as high as 96 per 100,000 people. Because the Ecuadorian president argued that Colombian military had no permission to cross the border, the Colombian government has accused Ecuador of harboring terrorists. Ecuador has since increased efforts to remove FARC.
One of the deadliest terror groups in the world, the insurgency of Boko Haram, can be found along the Niger-Chad border. To fight this group, Chad has sent 2,000 troops to a border town located, Bosso, on the Niger side. Violence in this town has sent more than 17,000 people fleeing. Since the arrival of the troops, 32 soldiers (30 from Chad and 2 from Niger and 55 terrorists have lost their lives. These two countries have had joint army operations since the beginning of 2015.
6. Yemen/Saudi Arabia
The 1,100-mile border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia has seen very high levels of violence. The two countries have experienced violent conflict for the last 65 years. Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in smuggled weapons, Al Qaeda terrorists, and economic refugees (from Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia) that prompted the government to build a wall. Yemen opposes the barrier stating that it infringes upon shepherd grazing rights. The two countries have officially been at war since March 2015. An estimated 6,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war. In one day alone, 15 missiles and 130 mortars are launched into Saudi Arabia.
Bangladesh and India share a 2,545 mile long border, one of the longest in the world. The border is intricate and made up of confusing enclaves, sometimes with Indian land surrounded by Bangladeshi territory within Indian territory! It is a common route for smuggled goods from India to Bangladesh and undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh to India. Due to the high levels of immigration, Indian Border Security Forces have a shoot on sight policy. Although sometimes, “illegal crossings” are a result of the complicated border lines and is an attempt to reach separate Bangladeshi territory. This kill on sight policy has led to over 1,000 deaths between 2000 and 2010.
The Mexico-US border runs from California to Texas for a total of 1,989 miles, and has the highest number of legal, annual border crossings in the world. It passes near large urban areas and over desolate deserts. The approximately 20,000 border patrol agents are clustered around big cities effectively leaving the desert unguarded. This pushes the 500,000 people trying to cross the border illegally into the desert where several hundred die every year. The zone is particularly dangerous in the El Paso-Juarez region which is known for narcotics traffickers who smuggle drugs, weapons, and people over the border. Hundreds of individuals have died here after violent encounters between the police and gang groups. The violence has spread into American territory.
The border dispute between Israel and Syria date back many years. In the early 1920s, Britain drew the borders giving the Syrian side to France. Then again later to include the Golan Heights. It is this area that has been heavily contested for nearly 100 years. The two countries have been at war several times taking control of various pieces of land. Today, the border is a live battle zone with bullets flying from both sides. The violence has markedly increased since the Syrian Civil War began.
The India-Pakistan border is 1,800 miles of heavily guarded and extremely dangerous land. It is so heavily guarded that it is the only border seen from space due to the high voltage flood lights on the Indian side. Since the 1947 partition which saw hundreds of thousands die, the countries have fought in 3 other wars and spent at least 25 years disputing claims to the Kashmir province as well as a mountain glacier. The number of casualties has passed the 50,000 lives mark.
1. South Korea/North Korea
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the 160-mile boundary between North and South Korea. This area is heavily guarded by troops on both sides and is complete with barbed wire and active landmines. The end of the Korean War did nothing to end hostilities between the two nations, they have been warring for more than 60 years and do not recognize each other’s sovereign status. Hundreds of people have died under these tense circumstances, including American citizens. Tensions are so heavy that the DMZ was created as a sort of buffer zone to keep the countries and their respective military forces at a safe distance from each other. Anyone who tries to cross the line will be shot.