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Couple convicted for helping Syrian refugees to Sweden

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Refugees, not connected to the story, arriving in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
16:54 CET+01:00
A child rights' activist and her husband were on Friday convicted of people smuggling for helping a Syrian refugee family travelling to Sweden to seek asylum, a spokeswoman said.

Both Sweden and Denmark have cracked down on a record number of cases of alleged people smuggling since the Nordic countries' refugee influx reached its peak. In the last four months of 2015, 17 people were found guilty of human trafficking in Sweden.

On Friday a court in the Danish town of Nykobing ordered Lisbeth Zornig, a high-profile figure who has formerly served as Denmark's ombudsman for children's rights, and her journalist husband each to pay a fine of 22,500 kroner ($3,350) for having aided migrants.

Zornig had picked up the Syrian family in Rodbyhavn – a port through which many migrants passed to Sweden and Denmark from Germany, before the Scandinavian countries reinstated border controls – and drove them to Copenhagen. The court heard the family had been on their way to Sweden.

"For me, it was like picking up hitch-hikers," Zornig told the court.

"Nobody thinks to ask them for their identification papers," she said, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Her husband, Mikael Rauno Lindholm, was accused of having served the same Syrian family coffee and biscuits in the couple's home, driving them to the train station, and buying their tickets to Sweden.

He explained to the court that he had called the police to ask if he was allowed to do so within the law: "The police duty officer told me that it was a good question but he wasn't able to answer."

According to police statistics, 279 people have been charged in Denmark for aiding migrants between September 2015 and February 2016, compared to 140 in 2014.

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And across the Öresund Bridge in southern Sweden, a total of 98 cases of suspected human trafficking were brought to the southern regional police division's attention in 2015 – up by 700 percent on the year before when 14 incidents were reported.

Sweden received 163,000 asylum applications last year, with a peak of 10,000 per week as of September. Denmark, which has half the population of Sweden, received 21,000 asylum applications in 2015, a rise of 44 percent from the previous year.

However, the two countries have tightened their asylum conditions in recent months, which has drastically reduced the flow of migrants arriving, with Sweden down to below 1,000 a week.

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