Deadly Crossings: the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border

Inspired by a social media post from the historian Richard Drayton comparing fatalities from crossing the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border, I decided to have a quick look into the numbers and created this quick chart using Infogram.

Starting with Wikipedia articles on deaths from crossing the Berlin Wall and the US-Mexico border, the data was largely sourced from estimates from the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam (ZZF), the United States Border Patrol, the Mexican Government as well as via this report from the International Organization for Migration in Geneva.

Obviously there are many reasons that the numbers are very different. Not least because Berlin was a city of between 2 and 4 million people during the Cold War period, and the US and Mexico currently have estimated populations of in excess of 310 and 120 million, respectively. And the circumstances surrounding the deaths are quite different. Most of the deaths from crossing the Berlin Wall appear to be from shooting, whereas deaths crossing the US-Mexico border are a combination of accidents, shooting from border guards, vigilante killings and other causes. But I thought that the comparison of fatalities between their respective borders was nevertheless thought-provoking.

If you know of any other data sources on missing years, or have any suggestions for additions or amendments to the chart, please let me know and I’ll update accordingly.

Update: As one person commented, knowing about the number of crossing attempts made in each case would help to make the charts more informative – but numbers on attempted crossings are clearly more difficult to come by. Any suggestions for where to look on this front would be welcome.

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