Sweden introduces border controls to limit immigration

A leaflet distributed by Sweden Democrats on the Greek island. Credits: TT

A leaflet distributed by Sweden Democrats on the Greek island. Credits: TT

12 Nov. — Sweden introduced temporary passport control at several border areas. Subject to the control measures will be certain individuals using road, rail and sea transport, primarily those coming from Denmark and Germany. By doing this, the government hopes to stem the record flow of refugees entering the country. The ruling and opposition parties are split regarding what further steps to take.

According to the Swedish Migration Agency, the volume of refugees has been rising rapidly since August. In the first ten months of 2015, the number of asylum applications was 50% higher than the total for the entire previous year. Moreover, contrary to popular misconception, these are not only Syrians. In comparison with 2014, the greatest increase was in the number of applicants from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The flood of refugees caught the government of the country completely by surprise. This is attested to by the fact that over the past several months situations have been regularly arising where the government has had to urgently reconsider its previous decisions. So, the budget passed in summer had to be amended in the fall. And reports appeared on the government’s plans to nix one program to finance another nearly every day this November. Among the proposals are cutting international development aid by 60% and allocating an additional 8.3b kronor (approximately €900m) to municipalities.

Another example: On 23 October the government and the opposition agreed on measures for addressing the refugee problem, but as soon as 13 November the Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson announced they were untenable.

But the most indicative episode is certainly the decision to introduce passport control. On 11 November at 4 p.m., Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, asked about the possibility of implementing border checks, replied: “at the right time, at the right conditions”. However, at 20 p.m. he informed the tabloid Expressen that police would begin their work on the border starting noon the next day.

Passport controls have initially been slated for implementation over a 10 day period. But there are few who doubt that they will last for a period of up to six months. The police will conduct selective document verification checks without regard to nationality but based on “good reason” – as it has been strongly emphasised. Dagens Nyheter notes that “there is neither the disposition nor the resources” for verifying every single passenger. Controls will be implemented in the south and west of the country.

The question of what further to do with the refugees has caused serious division among the Swedish political parties. In the ruling coalition, this is most noticeable in the Left Party. Its executive committee openly protested the announcement its leader Jonas Sjöstedt made in support of border control.

In the opposition Alliance, the Moderate Party supports the introduction of border control and proposes that refugees not be accepted unless they have already been registered in some other EU country. The Christian Democrats want to create camps for refugees in a special “transit zone”. The Centre Party thinks that refugees should find homes for themselves. The Liberal Party criticizes all of these proposals of their partners.

At the same time, the far right Swedish Democrats initiated their campaign at 20 border points in various EU countries. They are distributing leaflets in English that discuss the difficulties of life in Sweden. “No money, no jobs, no homes”, they are titled.

According to a survey by Inizio for the newspaper Aftonbladet, 63% of respondents think the government is not doing enough to manage the refugee situation. 53% are dissatisfied with the prime minister’s actions directly.

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