Sweden to bring back border checks to control Ukraine arrivals

Sweden's government is to bring back ID-checks on trains, ferries and buses entering the country, in order to keep checks on migrants fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Passengers having their ID checked at Denmark's Kastrup airport in 2016 before taking the train to Sweden.
Passengers having their ID checked at Denmark's Kastrup airport in 2016 before taking the train to Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The proposal to bring in new border checks has already been sent out for consultation and the government aims to impose a new law which will empowers the government to compel companies operating trains, buses and ferries entering Sweden to check their passengers’ IDs. 

The new law will be valid for three years, from April 8th this year until April 2025, although the actual ID checks will only be initially required for six months, with the possibility of being extended if necessary. The government expects parliament to pass the law rapidly, so that it can come into effect next month.   

“I think it would be extremely good to have this in place so we can have a better overview of who is coming in and how many,” Sweden’s immigration minister Anders Ygeman told the TT newswire. 

Those under the age of 18 who are travelling with an adult who has valid ID will be exempted from the rule, as will those travelling from or via Norway. 

Ygeman said that the with about twelve million Ukrainians likely to flee, Sweden is likely to receive a large number of people from the country, even potentially exceeding the peak scenario from the Migration Agency of 212,000 new arrivals . 

“One should probably expect up to about 30 percent of the population, so what’s the Swedish share of that?” Ygeman said. “I hope we don’t reach that.” 

“We believe that ID controls will mean that we can have a more secure method of reception,” Tomas Eneroth, Sweden’s infrastructure minister, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. “It means we will be able to prevent some crime which would otherwise cross the border at a time when there is a large flow of refugees.” 

Sweden began enforcing ID checks on its borders in November 2015 as it sought to slow the number of asylum seekers entering into the country during the European refugee crisis, with some checks remaining in place until 2019.  

Travellers were at first required to show their ID before boarding trains, buses, or ferries in Denmark, Germany, Poland, Norway, or Finland. From 2017, the checks started to be carried out by Swedish police onboard trains from Denmark. Sweden’s checks were criticised by the European Union and Schengen countries. 

Eneroth acknowledged that the checks would be “a disruption” for those commuting between Sweden and Denmark over the Öresund Bridge. “I hope that the operators find a convenient solution so that it will cause as little convenience as possible,” he said. 

Cross-border commuters between Denmark and Sweden greeted the announcement with dismay, with members of the Øresundspendler Facebook group saying they could hardly bear the return of controls.  

But Eneroth noted that unlike many of the asylum seekers in 2015, who largely came from Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea, practically everyone fleeing the war in Ukraine will have a passport or other identity card, making their ID quicker and easier to check. 

He said that keeping a record of all of those arriving in Sweden from Ukraine would allow the Migration Agency, and local, regional, and national governments to be better prepared, and would also help reduce the risk of human trafficking

Denmark does not currently have border checks on their side of the Øresund, but checks on the Danish-German border have led to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees being turned away from the Danish border since last Friday, DR reports.

This is due to the fact that, under Danish rules, only Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport can enter Denmark visa-free. Children without a biometric passport are also allowed to enter if they are accompanying an adult who holds a biometric passport, and Ukrainians without a valid passport are allowed to apply for an emergency passport or asylum in Denmark.

This means that any Ukrainians looking to transit Denmark in order to seek asylum in Sweden are turned away at the Danish-German border and advised to take an alternative route to Sweden such as the ferry from Kiel in northern Germany instead, thereby bypassing Denmark.

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Swedish municipality refused to pick up UN quota refugees

The Moderate-led municipality of Staffanstorp refused to collect four UN quota refugees allotted to them on Thursday, putting it at loggerheads with Sweden's Migration Agency.

Swedish municipality refused to pick up UN quota refugees

Staffanstorp, whose Moderate mayor Christian Sonesson is known for populist gestures such as banning the headscarf, failed to send officials to pick up a family of four refugees when they arrived in Sweden on Thursday. 

“What do you do with a municipality which refuses to follow Swedish law? This is pretty unique and it’s hard to know how to respond,” the Migration Agency’s general director, Mikael Ribbenvik, told Sweden’s TT newswire. 

Migration minister Anders Ygeman accused Sonesson of creating a conflict to win votes. 

“This is not the first time Staffanstorp has done this. This is an election year and they want to perform some kind of circus act,” he said. “But in the past Staffanstorp has always ended up following the law.” 

Under Sweden’s bosättningslagen or residency law, the four refugees should have been taken to Staffanstorp by the municipality, who had been given information from the Migration Agency on where to collect them. But the municipality sent no one to do so. 

The Migration Agency has now sent the family to another municipality, said its press chief Guna Graufelds: “We didn’t want to risk that the family got stuck, so we found someone else to take responsibility for them”.  

Sonesson on Monday told TT that the municipality was ready to take 244 Ukrainian refugees, but would not accept any more UN quota refugees while the war in Ukraine was ongoing. The municipality has been asked to take 36 quota refugees this year. 

“This is the the first time a municipality has refused,” Graufelds said. “They’re not excused from this. There are no legal grounds for acting in this way.”