Perhaps because he’s in the construction business, Donald Trump loves to talk about building things, especially walls. He’s still fixated on getting a wall built along the U.S. border with Mexico despite fierce opposition and a lack of funding.
And now, according to The Guardian, he is suggesting a wall to keep out unwanted immigrants in another part of the world — the Sahara Desert. Trump reportedly suggested to Spain’s foreign minister that the country could build a wall across the Sahara in order to manage Mediterranean migration.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Trump made the suggestion during a previous meeting.
When Borrell told him how big the Sahara is, the president responded by saying “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.”
The Sahara desert is approximately 3,000 miles wide from east to west, or about 1,000 miles longer than the U.S. border with Mexico.
Trump seems unaware that Spain doesn’t own the desert, and countries can’t just go all over the world building walls wherever they want to. As The Guardian points out, building a wall “would be complicated by the fact that Spain holds only two small enclaves in north Africa – Ceuta and Melilla – and such a wall would have to be built on foreign territory.”
Borrell reported Trump’s comments at an event in Madrid this week and they were widely reported in the Spanish media. “We can confirm that’s what the minister said, but we won’t be making any further comment on the minister’s remarks,” said a spokesman for the Spanish government.
Spain is now on the front lines of the European migration crisis. Official reports say that more than 33,600 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea so far in 2018, and 1,723 people have died attempting to reach Spanish shores.
The number of migrants this year is three times the total for the same period last year. Spain has now overtaken Italy and Greece as the main destination for refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
Pedro Sánchez, the socialist prime minister of Spain, has been widely praised for recently agreeing to take in the 630 refugees aboard the rescue ship Aquarius which had been turned away by Italy and Malta.
But the massive increase in the number of migrants arriving on Spain’s coast has put a huge strain on their reception facilities and infrastructure for dealing with the immigrants. The lenient and humane positions of Sánchez have been attacked by right wing political parties. They have accused Sánchez’s government of double standards and of being too soft on immigration.
Borrell is a widely respected statesman and is a former president of the European parliament. He has been outspoken about the European migrant crisis and has previously accused Europe of “ostrich politics” over migration. He has said he believes that Spain and other countries have the resources to do more than they have done.
“We’re talking about 20,000 migrants so far this year for a country of more than 40 million inhabitants,” he said in July. “That’s not mass migration.”
Donald Trump, of course, gained power in the U.S. on the strength of his racist anti-immigration policies. As recently as last month he lobbied for his beloved wall with Mexico by saying that Mexicans were rapists. He has thrown undocumented immigrants in jail in horrible conditions, and he has taken migrant children away from their families.
As Spain and other countries struggle to deal with the refugee problem we can only hope that they do NOT seek advice from or follow the suggestions of the President of the United States.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.