Refugee crisis

Border checks could be stepped up by Christmas

Border checks could be stepped up by Christmas
Police checking IDs on the trains from Denmark to Sweden. Photo: Daniel Kihlström/TT
Sweden's plans to try to further limit the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country by launching mandatory ID checks on all trains from Denmark to Sweden were criticized on Friday as it emerged they could be implemented just days before Christmas.

The proposal, if approved by parliament in a vote set to take place next week, would come into force on December 21st. 

Police have been carrying out spot checks in Malmö of people crossing the Öresund Bridge – made famous by the Nordic Noir television series 'The Bridge' – into Sweden since the government moved to stall the influx of refugees in mid-November.

It is understood, however, that the new rail controls would be carried out by public transport operators themselves, who could be fined if they fail to check passengers' ID documents.

Swedish train operator SJ was critical of the proposal. Press officer Åsa Larsson told TT: “It is clear that this will have a heavy impact and we have difficulty seeing how we will be able to implement the requirements. (…) The demands are unreasonable.”

But the government said the measures were necessary to maintain “public order and internal security” as Sweden continued to take in high numbers of asylum seekers.

A train journey between the two capitals usually takes around 30 minutes, with tens of thousands of commuters using the busy route daily. However, public transport operator Skånetrafiken warned mandatory ID checks could cause delays of up to an hour.

“These types of changes are unfortunate in a commuter and busy job market region,” traffic director Linus Eriksson told the Sydsvenskan regional newspaper.

As The Local reported on Thursday, the proposal, if approved, would also give the government the authority to close the Öresund Bridge to road traffic in extraordinary circumstances, without going through parliament.

“We have not yet been in a situation where we have judged that that would be needed,” Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson told the TT newswire on Friday.

Border checks on the Öresund Bridge. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

Meanwhile, the number of people seeking asylum in the Nordic country continues to drop. A total of 5,438 applications have been filed in the past seven days, compared to 7,100 during the previous period, according to Sweden's migration agency.

Sweden stepped up its immigration checks last month after announcing that it could no longer guarantee accommodation to all refugees arriving in the Scandinavian nation. Since then, the number of new migrant arrivals has dropped by at least a third, according to the agency.

However, more than 80,000 people have applied for asylum in Sweden in the past two months alone, which would be the equivalent of 25 million asylum seekers for the entire EU, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said last week.

The leader made the comments after announcing that Sweden would drastically tighten its asylum rules, no longer guaranteeing permanent residency to successful applicants.