KASTRUP, Denmark-Sweden began enforcing tighter border controls Monday in a bid to reduce the influx of asylum seekers, transforming a Danish railway station into a new epicenter of Europe’s migrant crisis and prompting Denmark to adopt similar policies.
The moves were the latest by European Union countries to suspend an agreement to keep internal borders open after 1 million migrants entered the 28-nation bloc in 2015, a lot of them by crossing the Mediterranean to Greece or Italy.
But the Danes are passing on the blame and say Sweden’s decision to start official border checks forced the government in Copenhagen to resort to controls toward Germany. Among them was Ali Reza Bali, a 16-year-old who had hoped the last leg of his 5,000-mile trek from war-battered Afghanistan to Sweden would be a straightforward ride over the bridge from Denmark.
Refugee rights advocates warned of a domino effect, with European countries tightening their borders one by one and cutting off the main migrant routes through Europe.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said “freedom of movement is an important principle” and one of the European Union’s biggest achievements.
“It’s important that we get an order where we gain control over how people move around in the Schengen area”, he said in an interview on Monday.
Danish train operator DSB said it has set up 34 checkpoints at the Kastrup train station that serves Copenhagen Airport, and is the last train stop before the Swedish border.
On Monday, Danish and Swedish authorities closely followed the traffic situation surrounding the Øresund bridge which connects the two Scandinavian countries and which 30,000 people cross on a daily basis. But he added that “it’s in danger due to the flow of refugees”.
This means all travellers wanting to cross the Oresund bridge from Denmark will be refused entry without the necessary documents.
Sweden’s SJ train company said it would not have time to check people travelling between Copenhagen and Malmo over the Oresund bridge.
Rasmussen said the random checks will apply for 10 days initially but could be extended.
Around 18,500 migrants applied for asylum in Denmark in 2015.
It said half of the migrants arriving overland from Germany were not carrying passports or other identity papers, and included a significant number of unaccompanied children.
Under Schengen rules, countries are allowed to re-introduce border checks for up to six months in exceptional circumstances. Germany temporarily imposed border checks of its own on its frontier with Austria in mid-September, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said such moves are unsustainable.
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