Another day, another stunningly brilliant policy proposal from President Donald Trump.
According to Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Trump suggested to him that Spain should build a wall across the Sahara desert as a way of curbing the influx of migrants into the country. Borrell made the claim on Tuesday during a speech at the Club Siglo XXI in Madrid.
“You need to build a wall across the Sahara,” Trump reportedly said. “It can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.” Borrell replied that, in fact, the Sahara is much bigger than the southern U.S. border and “in any case it wouldn’t be very useful to do that.” According to El Pais, the exchange occurred when Borrell visited the White House at the end of June.
A spokesman for the Spanish foreign ministry confirmed that Borrell had made the comments although he declined to elaborate further.
Building a wall across the Sahara is an incredibly stupid idea — the Washington Post already has a handy explainer detailing the potential pitfalls. Suffice to say, building a wall through three thousand miles of incredibly inhospitable desert would cost tens of billions of dollars. It would also cut right through up to five North African countries, who might have something to say about their territory being divided by a foreign power. Plus it would do absolutely nothing to protect Spain’s 4,000 miles of coastline.
Spain does have two tiny enclaves in Morocco, in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The cities have had their share of immigration-related problems, so building a wall around them might be a conceivable “conservative” idea. Building a wall through the Sahara, however, would do nothing to assist them.
Taking advice from Trump on border walls also rings a little hollow. Despite making the pledge to build a “great, great wall” on the southern U.S. border (and make Mexico pay for it) a signature part of his 2016 campaign, the wall is nowhere closer to being built. No money as of yet has been appropriated by Congress for the wall — although in May Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced legislation which would allow the American public to crowdfund the $20 billion wall.
Spain, meanwhile, has its own immigration issues to face, having overtaken Italy and Greece as the Mediterranean country with the most migrant arrivals. According to the International Organization for Migration, 33,611 migrants entered Spain by sea in from January to September 2018.
While the total number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean is barely a quarter of its 2016 peak, when 300,000 attempted to cross the sea, the shift to Spain has strained the country’s infrastructure and resources. Borrell, however, has rejected the idea that Spain is suddenly experiencing a “wave” of mass migration.
“We’re talking about 20,000 migrants so far this year for a country of more than 40 million inhabitants,” Borrell said in July. “That’s not mass migration.”