Friday

22nd Mar 2019

Refugee fears prompt Swedish border clampdown

  • Around 160,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden in 2015 (Photo: News Oresund)

Sweden on Monday (4 January) launched identity checks on its border with Denmark, in a move which unravels over 60 years of free travel between the two EU states.

The drastic measure comes in response to the inflow of asylum seekers who cross over from Denmark to Sweden. ID checks are also being required on ferries from Germany to Sweden, with Denmark now mulling additional controls with Germany.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

An estimated 160,000 people seeking international protection arrived in Sweden last year. With a total population of just under 10 million, Sweden has the highest number of refugees per capita in the EU.

Stockholm says it is unable to accommodate any more, although a senior government official told Swedish Radio that up 220 municipalities say they “can do more.”

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) told Swedish media authorities not to impose ID checks on people entitled to asylum.

“There is a tremendous strain to be on the run and you can not expect that those who are entitled to asylum will also have the right documents with them from the beginning - it is quite impossible,” Mattias Axelsson, a spokesperson for UNHCR in northern Europe, told the Swedish news agency, TT.

But Swedish authorities have come under intense political pressure at home to stem the flow of people.

Anyone travelling from Denmark by train, bus or ferry, will now have to present photo identification before being allowed into Sweden.

Those without the proper paperwork will be denied entry. Some 150 guards from Securitas, a private security firm, are verifying IDs.

Direct rail from Kastrup to Sweden has also stopped in a move set to impact the thousands who commute daily across the Oresund bridge between the two countries.

Denmark's rail company, DSB, says passengers should expect half-hour delays in a direct commute which normally takes around 40 minutes.

DSB, along with other ferry and bus companies, will be required to pre-screen passengers for IDs or face possible fines by Swedish authorities.

DSB expects the new checks will cost it €1.2 million, a fee it may pass on to customers.

Sweden's state-owned train operator, SJ, said it would stop services to and from Denmark to avoid the identity checks.

"It's as if we are building a Berlin Wall here. We are going several steps back in time," the AFP quoted Michael Randropp, a spokesman for the local Kystbanen commuters' association, as saying.

But for his part, Per-Arne Andersson, a senior official at the Swedish Association of Local and Municipal Governments, told Swedish radio that Sweden is able to take in more refugees.

"There are 40 to 50 municipalities that are facing a crisis, but the other 200 to 220 municipalities say they can do more," he said.

Meanwhile, similar moves are being imposed elsewhere.

Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in his New Year speech said Denmark is considering border controls with Germany, the main destination state for asylum seekers, following the Swedish decision.

Finnish ship operator Finnlines is also requiring boarding passengers in Germany to present a valid passport, a photo ID card, visas, residence permits "or other equivalent documents", reports Finnish state media YLE.

"Finnlines will not carry on board its ships any person who does not have all the documents requested for entry,” noted the company in a statement before Christmas.

Norway in late December introduced a draft law to tighten asylum rules, which include turning back asylum seekers who have no visas. The bill is aimed at cracking down on the inflow of refugees from Sweden.

The Swedish border control with Denmark is the latest blow against the EU's cherished passport-free Schengen area, as member states scramble to manage unregulated asylum and refugee flows primarily from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Germany in September also restored temporary border controls.

The German clampdown prompted neighbouring countries to impose similar checks at their own borders.

Norway turns back migrants without visas

Norway, a non-EU member of the passport-free Schengen area, plans to toughen immigration rules including turning back aslyum seekers from Sweden and other countries trying to enter without a visa.

Domino effect: Denmark follows Sweden on EU border checks

“May I see your ID?” - five little words on a train platform in Copenhagen on Monday mark the end of 60 years of Nordic free travel, as first Sweden, then Denmark impose new border checks amid the refugee crisis.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us