Denmark to introduce border controls

Oresund bridge

The Øresund bridge, connecting Denmark and Sweden. [European Roads/Flickr]

Denmark will introduce border controls with Germany on 4 January, as soon as Sweden formally introduces ID checks on the Øresund bridge, connecting Denmark and Sweden, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said on Monday (14 December).

In order to stem the flow of asylum seekers, Sweden introduced border controls on the Øresund bridge in November. Starting next year, the Scandinavian country wants to take things a step further by introducing ID checks, and sending those who are undocumented back to Denmark. 

Denmark’s Minister for Migration, Inger Støjberg, estimates that eight out of ten asylum seekers who want to go to Sweden would then have to stay on Danish soil. Rasmussen is therefore considering introducing border controls at the Danish-German border, in order to discourage asylum seekers from travelling to Denmark in the first place.

Over the past months, border controls have been introduced in all of Denmark’s neighbours: Norway, Sweden and Germany.

>>Read: Sweden checks trains for migrants at its border with Denmark

Internal border controls are not allowed under the EU’s Schengen rules, but many member states have recently introduced the measure temporarily, referring to a special emergency situation due to the refugee crisis.

At a press conference, the Danish prime minister said Denmark “now has to deal with this unfortunate situation which Sweden has brought us”.

“This is a very sad situation. The Swedes have decided to introduce ID checks on top of the border controls they have already put in place. There is a reason to be unhappy about this,” he said.

Apart from likely increasing the number of asylum seekers in Denmark, ID controls on the Swedish side of the Øresund bridge will also damage the cooperation which the two neighbours have built up in the ‘Øresund region’ which includes Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, and the third biggest city in Sweden, Malmö, according to Rasmussen.

“We have spent billions to build up the infrastructure of the Øresund region and branded Copenhagen and Malmö as a coherent city area. By introducing the ID checks, the Swedes are now dividing this region up in two halfs again,” Rasmussen added.

Around 30,000 people cross the Øresund bridge on a daily basis. As the new border control measures will increase the time of crossing the bridge, there is a risk, according to Rasmussen, that the traffic system will collapse. 

Sweden made a U-turn on its foreign policies in November, when the country said it would now only grant temporary residence permits for asylum seekers and only live up to the minimum standards under international and EU laws when it comes to dealing with refugees.

>>Read: Poll: Swedish support for refugees falls

The change of policy came after the Swedish Migration Agency estimated that Sweden will receive almost 200,000 asylum seekers in 2015, making the country the most preferred destination in the EU per capita.

Sweden’s change in policy has led 395 asylum seekers to withdraw their application in October, a figure which rose to 627 in November.

Recent data from the UN Refugee Agency suggests that 50% of Syrian refugees who arrive in Greece say they would prefer going to Germany as their most preferred destination. The second-highest number (13%) wanted to go to Sweden, followed by Denmark (5%).

In Denmark, Norway and Finland, where the governments are in favour of strict migration rules, Sweden is blamed for having attracted refugees to the Nordic region as a whole. The region now accepts the highest number of asylum seekers in the EU.

In Sweden, however, the government says EU countries have largely refused to take their responsibility in the refugee crisis, including Denmark.  

The European Union has agreed on a plan, resisted by Hungary and several other ex-Communist members of the bloc, to share out 120,000 refugees among its members, a small proportion of the hundred thousands of refugees the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates will reach Europe's borders from the Middle East, Africa and Asia this year.

The EU is also courting Turkey with the promise of money, visa-free travel, and new accession talks if Ankara tries to stem the flow of refugees across its territory.

  • 4 January 2016: Sweden to introduce ID checks

Subscribe to our newsletters