The Öresund bridge links Malmö in Sweden and Copenhagen. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Swedish officials said on Thursday morning that temporary border controls introduced in southern Sweden would be extended until next month, as part of ongoing efforts to try and control the flow of refugees crossing into the Nordic country from Denmark.
The initial checks, which came at the request of Sweden's Migration Agency, began in mid-November and have since been extended in 14-day periods. From now on they will be renewed on a monthly basis, the government said.
"We are moving from an emergency to a planned procedure, and the reason is that the overall assessment is that there is still a risk when it comes to order and security," Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told the TT news agency.
The introduction of border controls means that for the first time in half a century, Sweden is demanding photo identification for travellers arriving from Denmark and deals a blow to Europe's cherished passport-free Schengen system. Only passports, driving licences and Swedish national identity cards will be accepted by the authorities.
Undocumented refugees coming to Sweden face three choices: to return to the country they came from, seek asylum in Sweden or, for those just passing through Sweden, to choose a different route to their final destination.
The checks on the Öresund Bridge have caused some delays for commuters
who live on one side of the crossing but work on the other.
"We agreed to keep (the measures) to a minimum and return to normal as soon as possible. This means the flows have to be slowed down," said EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who called emergency talks in Brussels with officials from Sweden, Denmark and Germany earlier this week.
"We all agreed that Schengen and free movement must be safeguarded," he added.
Sweden has recently taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation -- 160,000 asylum requests last year, including 26,000 unaccompanied minors, with 115,000 of them in the last four months. Meanwhile Denmark welcomed around 18,000 refugees in 2015.