Border checks

Could Sweden’s border controls soon be lifted?

Could Sweden's border controls soon be lifted?
The border control at the Swedish side of the Öresund Bridge to Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT
Swedish border controls put in place during the height of the refugee crisis could soon come to an end, as the EU approved six-month extension of the checks reaches its final weeks.

Sweden first introduced its controls in November 2015, putting border checks in place in the south of the country amid a record influx of refugees, with 163,000 asylum applications registered in the country 2015.

In May, the EU approved a half-year extension of the exceptional measures in the passport-free Schengen zone, after nations including Sweden and Denmark complained that the situation remained volatile.

EU rules state that countries can only put border controls in place for a maximum of two years for periods of up to six months under exceptional circumstances.

And the European Commissioner for Migration has now suggested that while border controls were necessary, that does not mean they will be extended in November.

“The Commission’s goal is that cooperation within Schengen should start working normally as soon as possible,” Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday at the presentation of a European Commission report on progress made under the EU Agenda on Migration.

Denmark, which shares a border with Sweden, has already expressed its desire to extend controls at its side.

“From the Danish side we are going to argue to keep the controls in place. It is linked to having control of the EU’s outer borders, which we don’t,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said at a press conference following an informal meeting between the leaders of the Nordic nations on Wednesday.

Rasmussen’s Swedish counterpart Stefan Löfven was less keen to fully commit to renewed checks for the moment however.

“We’ll look at the question and our starting point is that we can’t return to a situation like the one we had last year, that wasn’t sustainable. But we’re looking at the question and must also have a solution at EU level,” Löfven told news agency TT at the same press conference.

“We won’t go back to a situation like last year,” he added.

EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos has said that he would welcome a statement of intent from the Swedish government on the issue.

The number of people applying for asylum in Sweden dropped dramatically following the introduction of border controls, with 19,270 applications received by the end of August this year, compared to the record 163,000 in 2015.

The Swedish Migration Agency has halved its prediction for the total number of asylum seekers it expects to come to the country this year, estimating that between 30,000 and 50,000 will arrive, compared to an earlier estimation of 60,000.