For the last seven days, a group of twenty Eritrean refugees have been trapped between the two fences materializing the border between Egypt and Israel as they were trying to enter the latter. Today, the group was dismissed as a vast majority of them was expelled and three of them were brought to a detention center on the Israeli territory. This short post does not even want to spend too much time deploring the “normal xenophobia” that motivates European countries and Israel to let migrants dying at their frontiers – in that case, and from the article in the Guardian, one of the women of the group miscarried a child as no other humanitarian aid was brought to them other than a limited amount of water. This reality reached a long time ago the tragic stage where it has been accepted as a collateral effect of globalization and would requires a much longer article.
What I would like to stress on here is the geometrical paradox that makes a border acquiring a thickness. In reality, the line traced on a map is often materialized by a physical element and inevitably, this element has a given thickness. In that case, the materialization of the abstract border is achieved by a double fence, thus creating a space in between that seems ambiguous on the legal level. Technically this space is on the Israeli territory. Nevertheless, for seven full days, the state of Israel refused to grant access to its territory to those twenty migrants, implying that this space was not part of this same territory. Harriet Sherwood for the Guardian even precises:
An Israeli government spokesman said: “According to international practices and binding precedents, the fence is a de facto border, and therefore anyone who is beyond it is not located in Israeli territory and is therefore not eligible for automatic entry.”
Similarly to the Korean DMZ, or the Cypriot Buffer Zone, the space between the two lines of fences carries a legal status that is not the same than the ones on each of its sides. Whoever lives in this space can be said to be liberated from the law. However, such a liberation also implies the loss of a legal status for each individual which then becomes the target of one or both sides’ fire, or in that case, the dispossession of the right to be treated humanely both by Egypt and Israel. In his book, Homo Sacer, Giorgio Agamben invents the now well-known concept of bare life to characterizes the individuals subjected to the state of exception and who are now expelled completely from the political and legal process. We can probably attribute the border’s thickness as the space, par excellence that provides the conditions of existence of the bare life status.