Sweden to introduce temporary border controls

Stefan Lofven

Stefan Löfven [Socialdemokraterna Malmö]

On Thursday (12 November), Sweden will set up border controls at the Øresund bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden, and at ferries which arrive from Germany and Denmark.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening (11 November), Interior Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman emphasised that the Swedish Migration Agency is under an “enormous pressure” due to the high number of asylum seekers arriving in the country every day.

On Monday (9 November) the Migration Agency announced that more than 10,000 people sought asylum just over the past week. Sweden is expected to receive up to 190,000 asylum seekers in 2015, and the country, which accepts the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in Europe, has said it can no longer guarantee housing for all.

Ygeman said that the border controls would be in place for 10 days with the possibility of an extention, in accordance with the Schengen rules which do allow temporary border controls. However, Sweden is at the moment not considering imposing border controls at its border to Finland.

Sweden is the latest EU and Schengen member to introduce border controls. Germany, Austria and Slovenia already have border controls in place, while Denmark had border controls shortly in August.

Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, is currently meeting other EU heads of state in Malta to discuss migration with African countries. During a break, Löfven told the press that the border controls should not be seen as directed towards a specific country.

“I have a very good relationship with the Danish prime minister and we agree that we need to have order. It’s a decision which we have made because we have a very, very large stream of people coming to Sweden,” he said.

The prime minister added that he does not believe that border controls will have an impact on the number of asylum seekers arriving in his country, but that his country needs to have control of the arrivals already at the borders.

Löfven has come under pressure since Anna Kinberg Batra, the leader of the Moderates, Sweden’s largest opposition party, called for tighter immigration policies in Sweden earlier this week. Kinberg Batra also wants an extra rebate from the EU to make up for all the extra costs Sweden will have the coming years due to the refugee crisis.

No border controls in Denmark – for now

Sweden’s announcement Wednesday evening immidiately prompted Danish right-wing parties to demand that Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen follow suit.

However, Rasmussen, who is also currently taking part in migration negotiations in Malta, declined.

“Prime minister Löfven has assured me that Sweden won’t close its borders. You can still apply for asylum there, but he wants to know what’s going on,” Rasmussen said.

The Danish premier expects more people to now apply for asylum in Sweden, as those headed for Norway and Finland would likely be forced to choose between either staying in Sweden or go back. Sweden would therefore take much of the pressure off of Finland and Norway, who are in similar situations with limited shelters for refugees.

On Wednesday, Rasmussen announced his intention to tighten Denmark’s immigration policies as he does not see an “end to the wave of refugees and migrants streaming into Nordic countries”.

Rasmussen said his cabinet wants to shorten the duration of residence permits, make it easier to deport those with no legal grounds to stay, and to cut grants for refugees for the second time since a June election that brought the centre-right government to power. 

>> Read: Swedish support for migrants falls: poll

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 700,000 refugees the International Organisation 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.

  • 12 November: EU heads of state meet in Valletta for an informal summit on migration, the fifth this year.

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