The same European Union that opened its doors during the 2015 refugee crisis is today surrounded and crisscrossed by more than 2,000 kilometres of border fences. This investigation combines on-site reporting, data journalism and visual design to bring the scale and impact of “Fortress Europe” into focus.

The Walls of Europe is a collaboration between Outriders, a Warsaw-based non-profit newsroom; Spanish newspaper El Confidencial; Fundación PorCausa, a Spanish non-profit specialising in migration issues; Greek investigative news outlet Solomon; and Baynana, a Madrid-based outlet that provides public service journalism in Arabic and Spanish.

The investigation is the result of seven field trips to Bulgaria, Greece, France, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Spain, where the team conducted interviews with asylum seekers, local authorities, members of humanitarian organisations, border police officers, environmentalists and hunters.

Teams analysed dozens of official documents, converting data and visual evidence into infographics. But they also spent a lot of time talking to people who live close to the walls and trying to understand the impact on their lives.

This research shows the growing number of border walls and fences across Europe and exposes the booming business interests around border walls. It reveals the political drivers of putting up fences and their impact on people, from migrants and refugees to local communities and the security forces that patrol the constructions. The investigation also looks at the walls’ impact on the environment.

Along with climate change, migration management is one of the top challenges of the 21st century. At a time when populism is growing in Europe and political parties scapegoat migrants to win votes, this investigation brings the impact of these walls closer to the general public through stunning visual work.

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