After two weeks of identity checks in Sweden, and the imposition of border controls in Denmark, the number of asylum applications in the two countries is decreasing.
Due to the refugee crisis, Sweden received 1,000 asylum applications per day in November last year. The country introduced border controls the same month, and followed up with ID controls from the beginning of this year. The week before the ID checks began on 4 January, 2,081 asylum seekers arrived in the Sweden. But since then, the number has been halved to 930 per day.
The new Swedish measure prompted Denmark to respond by imposing random border controls at its southern border with Germany, fearing a large number of illegal immigrants would accumulate in and around the capital of Copenhagen.
In the past five days, an estimated 20-30 asylum seekers crossed the Scandinavian country’s southern border. However, in the weeks before border controls were implemented, the level was 55 per day. In December, the number was 90 asylum seekers per day.
Alexandra Elias, spokesperson for Sweden’s Migration Agency, mentioned the cold Nordic weather as the main reason why fewer are travelling to the north, but also the fact that other countries are putting border controls in place, making it more difficult to reach Sweden.
“We assume that the ID control has an impact on how many people seek asylum in Sweden, but it’s too early to talk about how big this impact is,” Elias told the Jyllands-Posten.
But the police in Skåne, in southern Sweden, pointed out that there are now far fewer asylum seekers who take the train via the Øresund bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden.
“Now we don’t see that many arriving via Hyllie station (the first train station on the Swedish side). They can be counted on one hand, so this has really made a difference,” said Ewa-Gun Westford, a spokeswoman from the police.
However, Sweden is witnessing more arrivals through alternative routes. Some asylum seekers are now travelling by ferry from Germany or Poland. Others are now sailing from Denmark on inflatable boats.
Westford pointed out that while the authorities are becoming more aware of the new entrypoints that are being used to get to Sweden, they also suspect that many people are waiting in Germany for the situation in Scandinavia to be nomalised before travelling to the Nordic country.
In early February, the two Scandinavian countries will review whether to prolong their border checks. During a meeting in Brussels two weeks ago, both countries promised to lift the border controls “as soon as possible”.
In 2015, an estimated 160,000 refugees sought asylum in Sweden, the largest number for any EU country relative to its population. Most of them arrived via Denmark, which on the other hand only accepted around 20,000 asylum seekers during the same period. Denmark expects to receive 20,000-25,000 asylum seekers in 2016.
- 2 Feb.: Effect of temporary border controls to be reviewed in Denmark.
- 8 Feb.: Impact of ID checks to be reviewed in Sweden.
- Jyllands-Posten: Denmark and Sweden have halted the number of asylum seekers [in Danish]