The Schengen passport-free area is decreasing with six countries having officially imposed controls at their borders. Denmark announced to extend its measures and Sweden is likely to follow the example. Yet, the Swedish model to handle refugees has not failed, said the Swedish MEP Jytte Guteland in the weekly Euranet Plus “U Talking To Me?” broadcast.

“I can’t accept that now we are abandoning the Schengen system,” the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said last week when Sweden and Denmark announced to step up controls at their borders.

Denmark had asked the measures to be installed until January 14, but decided on Wednesday (January 13) to extend them for another 20 days.

“The assessment is that there is still a risk that a large number of illegal immigrants accumulate in Denmark,” the Danish integration ministry said in a press release.

Denmark is set to force refugees to give up their valuables to pay for their accommodation while applying for asylum. The European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that he will wait until he received and read the new law before deciding if there is potentially a “breach of the EU rule of law.”

In the case of Sweden, the temporary border controls should come to an end on February 8. It is doubtful that the country’s conditions to go back to normal will be met by then.

Sweden has often been considered to be a model country in terms of handling refugees. While announcing the change of policy in November last year, the Swedish Deputy Minister Asa Tomson burst into tears.

“The Swedish model did not fail and it is very important that the country continues to respect the asylum right,” the Swedish member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jytte Guteland for the centre-left S&D, said during the “U Talking To Me?” debate.

According to her, refugees will continue to come as long as conflicts like in Syria go on.

“More European countries will have to show an open attitude towards refugees,” the Swedish MEP said.

Guteland also said that Sweden does not want to put a limit to the influx of refugees entering Sweden.

“We could never have a limit when people are in risk of their lives. So I would say that the Swedish government is trying to put a political signal to force the other countries that if we don’t act in solidarity-way here, then it will hurt our economy as well. We need to see that everything is connected. So I think you should not see it as a stop. You should see it as a political signal towards other countries,” Guteland said.

So far, the EU relocation scheme, which aims to redistribute refugees within EU countries, is all but working properly, with not even 300 refugees having been relocated within three months.

The countries closing their borders agree that the first condition to reopen them would be an increase of the solidarity within the European Union.

According to the EU rules, the measures must “remain an exception” and “respect the principle of proportionality.” Depending on the reason to introduce border controls, they can last from ten up to twenty days, whereas the overall period is limited to six months.

Besides Denmark and Sweden, another four Schengen states (Norway, Austria, France and Germany) have informed the Commission on a “temporary reintroduction of border control” at internal Schengen borders.

Not to mention countries like Slovenia or Hungary, where fences were built at the borders to keep refugees from crossing.

Those countries, both members of the Schengen zone, are no more on the list of those countries who have introduced border controls. According to the data published by the Commission, these controls only lasted for three weeks (in September and October) in Slovenia and one week in October in the case of Hungary.

“They have been discontinued,” an EU source said.

Sexual assaults hidden after at concert in Stockholm?

After the discussions that came up after the attacks on women in Cologne on New Year’s eve, Swedish media have reported that in Stockholm, during a free music festival in 2014 and 2015, young women were attacked by men coming mainly from Afghanistan.

Swedish police was accused of having withheld information about the assaults and launched an investigation on the matter.

“It is too early to comment these events,” Guteland told Euranet Plus.

In any case, it was wrong to hide the information from the public, the Swedish MEP said.

“If as a young woman are harassed, you should not feel guilty. You should feel that you can report it. Because it is not your fault. It’s the man who attacked you. So of course that was wrong, it is a very bad signal,” Guteland said.

On Tuesday (January 12), Germany announced to strengthen its laws for punishing criminal foreigners.

“I completely understand that the German government took these measures,” Timmermans said on Thursday.

“It has to be clear that criminal acts would have consequences and that refugees can loose international protection,” the Dutch Commissioner said.

  • Author: Daniele Weber, Euranet Plus News Agency

Listen to the whole debate below (or watch it above)