Swedish bridge closure plan slammed by lawyers

Sweden’s plans to stem the flow of people coming into the country to claim asylum via the Öresund Bridge have been slammed by the government’s independent legal advisors - but will go ahead anyway, according to a top official.

Swedish bridge closure plan slammed by lawyers
Police officers on the Öresund Bridge last week. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

The Social Democrat-Green coalition wants to introduce ID checks on buses, trains and ferries, and to have the right to close the Öresund Bridge in the event of a crisis. 

The plans are set to be voted on in parliament later this week. But the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet), which advises on the legality of government proposals, has likened the proposals to “emergency laws” and criticized the way they were drawn up.

“It is clear to the Council on Legislation that the temporary legislation being proposed will not be fit for the purpose of tackling the current challenges, if protecting the right to asylum is also desired,” it said in a statement.

The proposal, if approved by parliament would come into force on December 21st. 

However the council said the idea had been drawn up in “great haste”. The council criticizes the government for not consulting sufficiently widely before making the proposals. “Such intrusive legislation should only be introduced after a thorough inquiry that takes into account the basic principles of the rule of law.”

“The Council on Legislation therefore rejects the proposed legislation,” it concluded. 

But the government was swift to dismiss the council's report:

“The Council on Legislation has made a different assessment to the government of the seriousness of the current refugee situation, and therefore also of how urgent this piece of legislation is. The government’s view has not changed,” said Erik Bromander, state secretary for Sweden’s infrastructure minister.

The body is purely advisory and does not have the power to block legislation, but it has an important role in advising whether proposed legislation is compatible with existing laws and the constitution.

Police have already 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 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 has already been critical of the proposal. Press officer Åsa Larsson told the TT news wire last week: “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 on Friday.