Sweden introduces border controls for refugees

EPA/BERND WUESTNECK

Refugees headed for Scandinavia wait on a bus at the seaport of Rostock, Germany, before catching the ferry to Trelleborg, Sweden, late 05 November 2015. Europe is contending with the biggest migration flows since World War II, with more than 750,000 migrants and asylum seekers arriving by sea this year. Many of them come from war-torn Syria.

Swedish authorities imposed temporary border controls to address the migration influx, as police believes that there is a threat against public order


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Sweden introduced today temporary border controls at Oresund bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, and at ferry terminals in southern Sweden where many asylum seekers arrive from Germany.

Yesterday evening, Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told reporters that the government was advised to introduce the border controls by the appropriate authorities. “A record number of refugees are arriving in Sweden. The migration office is under strong pressure… and the police believe there is a threat against public order,” Ygeman said.

Sweden belongs to Schengen open borders agreement and the national government is only allowed to introduce border controls, only in case of a serious threat to the country’s “public policy or internal security.” The Swedish Minister said that the border control will last for 10 days but they could be extended by another 20 days.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, speaking to news agency TT from an EU summit in Malta on Wednesday, said Sweden needed “order on our borders. There must be order in our reception of refugees.” Moreover, Mikael Hvinlund of Swedish Migration Board told the press conference that the Swedish agency had asked for border controls because it can no longer “guarantee shelter,” to the refugees in need.

Ygeman called the rest of the EU states, which are not so eager to help in the refugee crisis to finally have some contribution.

“Our signal to the rest of the EU is crystal clear – Sweden is the country that has shouldered the greatest responsibility for the refugee crisis,” Ygeman said at news conference and added. “If we are to cope with this mutual challenge, the other countries must take their responsibility,” he added.

The Nordic country is one of the few European countries which responded with great urgency and care to the refugee crisis. Still, Sweden is under great pressure since it received more asylum seekers than any other EU country, relative to its size. Up to 190,000 people are expected to claim asylum in Sweden in 2015, more than twice as many as previously predicted.

Besides Sweden, Germany also announced that it has imposed border controls and put into force the Dublin regulation.

Human Rights Watch criticizes the EU

On 9 November, Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch in Europe and Central Asia Division, stressed that the EU must find an affective policy to deal with the refugee crisis.

Ward underlined that almost 800,000 asylum seekers and migrants reached Europe by sea this year, more than 200,000 in October alone.

“With no end in sight, there are signs that Europe’s heart is hardening. Sweden, among the most generous EU states in responding to the crisis, has asked for help from other EU governments, saying it cannot accept further asylum seekers. Some in Germany’s ruling coalition are making similar arguments,” he stressed.

Many humanitarian agencies, including the HRW and the UN, underlined that as winter comes in Europe, the refugees will suffer even more and the EU must urgently do something to prevent another refugee tragedy.

“Harsh weather conditions are likely to exacerbate the suffering of the thousands of refugees and migrants landing in Greece and travelling through the Balkans, and may result in further loss of life if adequate measures are not taken urgently,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler stressed on November 5.

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