Sweden set to keep ID checks over summer

Swedish politicians have proposed changing the law to avoid a two-week gap to the ID checks on public transport into Sweden this summer, which were introduced to stem a rising flow of asylum seekers.

Sweden set to keep ID checks over summer
ID checks at Copenhagen airport's Kastrup train station. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Sweden introduced the ID checks on all buses, trains and ferries crossing the border into Sweden on January 4th to cut the record number of refugees it took in last year.

As The Local reported earlier this year, they apply for six months, but under current legislation, when they lapse on July 4th, a ruling to reinstate them can only come a fortnight later, creating a two-week window.

But after migration officials voiced concerns that the grace period could create a fresh wave of refugees trying to make it to Sweden, a parliamentary committee has now proposed to plug the gap.

“Two weeks without ID checks could open a flow that we do not want, because we want to have control over who comes,” centre-right politician Beatrice Ask, who heads the justice committee and represents the biggest opposition party, the Moderates, told the TT newswire on Thursday.

Officials have also pointed out that a fortnight without controls could provide a window of opportunity for human traffickers. Swedish police have cracked down on 36 cases of suspected people smuggling on the Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark since the turn of the year. 

The ruling centre-left Social Democrat-led coalition welcomed the justice committee's move, which was backed by all parties in parliament apart from the Centre Party and the Left Party.

“It is positive that parliament is taking this initiative. It means that those concerns there have been around what a gap to the ID checks could mean, can now be managed in a better way,” Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson told TT.

If the proposal to change the legislation goes through parliament before it breaks for summer recess, which is likely, the ID checks will continue uninterrupted. They will also be extended for four months at a time rather than six.

Meanwhile, the government is set to launch an inquiry into how the controls have been executed and their impact. They remain unpopular with many commuters in the region, especially train travellers who have seen their journey times increase by around 40 minutes as a result.

They run parallel to police checks on the Swedish border, which are currently set to continue until at least May 8th.

The number of people seeking asylum in Sweden has dropped dramatically since the controls were introduced, with an average of far fewer than 1,000 a week showing up in the Nordic country, compared to almost 10,000 during the autumn. 


Swedish politician condemns Denmark’s ‘shit sandwich’ sewage plan

Copenhagen's water utility has been asked to postpone a plan to dump 290,000 cubic meters of untreated raw sewage into the Øresund Strait in the face of outrage from citizens and politicians in both Sweden and Denmark.

Swedish politician condemns Denmark's 'shit sandwich' sewage plan
Swimmers taking part in the Øresund Challenge back in 2011. Photo: Dennis Lehmann/Ritzau Scanpix
After a meeting on Monday afternoon, Ninna Hedeager Olsen, Copenhagen's environmental mayor, said she had asked civil servants to ask Hofor postpone the release until the autumn. 
“There has been an opportunity for Hofor to postpone the test work they will be doing until October,” she told state broadcaster DR. “That is why I have asked the administration to demand it.” 
Politicians in both Denmark and Sweden were up in arms on Sunday when details of the plan became known, forcing the utility to first postpone the release by 24 hours, and now postpone it further. 
Niels Paarup-Petersen, a member of parliament for Sweden's Centre Party, told The Local that the plan was just the latest in a long list of insults Denmark had thrown at its Scandinavian neighbour. 
“We’ve been served shit sandwich after shit sandwich over the last couple of years, but we've never been served so much shit in one go as this,” he said.  
Jacob Næsager, a city politician with Denmark's Conservative party, said that it was astonishing that the plan had been approved. 
“Many people want to swim in the Øresund, and I think it is extremely disgusting that people literally have to swim in other people's shit,” he said. 
Finn Rudaizky, a city politician for the Danish People's Party on the city's environment committee, called the plan “completely crazy”.
After Olsen announced the decision to postpone the plan, Morten Østergaard leader of Denmark's Social Liberal party congratulated those who had spotted it and launched a protest. 
“Good God, that was hanging by a thread, but hats off for the action,” he said. “'Shit good', as Niels Paarup from our sister party wrote.” 

Paarup-Petersen told The Local that he recognised that the utility had to empty the sewer to allow construction to go ahead at Svanemølleholmen in Nordhavn.
But he said there was no need to dump so much sewage in one go right at the start of the summer swimming season.  
“They can spread it out over a longer period, they can do it in a better season when people won't be swimming and there might be better currents,” he said. “It would also be possible to plan it a bit better so it will be released over more days.” 
He said he planned to work together with the Danish Social Liberal party to put in place greater environmental protections around the Øresund. 
“In the long term we have to find solutions, because there are solutions that can mean that the Øresund no longer needs to be a sewer,” he said. 
In a memo to the mayor issued on Monday, city civil servants said that they could not withdraw the permit issued to Hofor, as it had been drawn up in accordance with the correct procedures. 
Hedeager Olsen said she would now launch ask a team of  external experts in law and the environment to investigate why the city's civil servants believed it was right to authorise the discharge. 
“When the administration today concludes in a note that they believe the case management has been correct, and at the same time you hear environmental professors and others say that it is not, it is important to get the case investigated at a fundamental level,” she told DR.