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Fears rise over human trafficking in Sweden

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Swedish police checking cars on the Öresund bridge. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT
07:33 CET+01:00
Police have cracked down on a record number of cases of people smuggling on the Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark in the past few months as the Nordic country's refugee crisis reached its peak.

A total of 98 cases of suspected human trafficking have been brought to the southern regional police division's attention in 2015 – up by 700 percent on the year before when 14 incidents were reported.

And in the four months since September 1st, 17 people have been found guilty of people smuggling according to court files examined by Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

Most of the cases involve people driving others across the Öresund bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden, the route chosen by most refugees travelling to the Scandinavian country, which has seen more than 150,000 seek asylum this year – the majority in the past few months alone.

“If we rewind to June I don't think anyone would have been able to expect that kind of frequency of human smuggling,” Michael Mattsson, head of the southern border police, told SVT on Wednesday.

Under the EU's Dublin regulation, migrants seeking asylum in Europe are supposed to be registered in the first country they arrive in. But in practice many try to avoid registration and travel onwards to other European countries.

While some are believed to be the victims of organized smugglers taking advantage of vulnerable people and charging copious amounts of money for fake travel documents, others are helped by friends or relatives – who could also be charged with human trafficking, according to police.

READ ALSO: Arrests in Sweden over smuggling ring

Jan Edmundsson, who normally works for the Gothenburg police but has been transferred to the Öresund bridge to assist with border checks, told SVT he opened the back of a van just days ago and found three children hidden under a mattress, accompanied by their father.

The van was driven by a Sweden-based relative of the family, who was arrested for alleged people smuggling.

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“The youngest (child) was maybe six, seven years old. They were in good health. They had been picked up in Germany so they had not been in the car very long anyway,” said Edmundsson.

Sweden is set to introduce mandatory ID checks on all trains, buses and ferries into the country from January 4th, which border police fear could lead to human trafficking being stepped up.

“There's a possibility that they try to be smarter, that they use other methods. We have seen examples in Europe where people were found in trucks, with many dead as a result. That could be one effect,” said Mattsson.

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