Visit of Morgan Johansson, Inger Støjberg and Ole Schröder to the European Commission on January 6, 2016 / ec.europe.eu

For the first time in 50 years, Sweden imposed identity checks for train and bus passengers from Denmark. The Danish government reacted by introducing controls on its southern frontier with Germany. Free movement within the Schengen area should be preserved, representatives of the three countries said in Brussels. At the same time they called for the common EU asylum and relocation system to be effective.

Europe’s passport free area is shrinking. Since Monday, Sweden is checking identities of passengers coming by train or bus crossing the Oresund Bridge. Denmark immediately followed the move by introducing controls at its border with Germany.

“It was the right of Sweden and Denmark to do this,” the EU Commissioner in charge of migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said after a short press point following a meeting he had in Brussels with representatives of Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

“Schengen and the right of free movement have to be safeguarded both for citizens and for the economy,” the Commissioner said. “We agreed that we should return to normal as soon as possible.”

However, so far it does not seem very likely that controls will be lifted soon.

“In Denmark, we do not want to be the final destination for thousands of refugees,” the Danish minister for immigration, integration and housing, Inger Stojberg, said.

“The necessary measures should not be in place longer than we need,” the Swedish minister for justice and migration, Morgan Johansson, emphasized.

But he also listed some conditions to be reached before the controls could be stopped again. (audio in Swedish)

“The prerequisite [to end border controls] is that we have a stable situation in Europe. It also depends on how many people enter through Greece and if the hotspots, that are supposed to be built in Greece and Italy, are working. Because I don’t won’t to be in the situation where we lift the controls and then, two weeks later, we’ll have another situation where 10,000, maybe 15,000 asylum seekers come per week and that we then have to decide to reintroduce border controls,” Johansson told journalists in Brussels.

Johansson said that 115,000 asylum seekers entered the country during the last four months. He called for the principle of refugees applying for asylum in the first EU country they arrive to be followed and for the Dublin system to be applied.

Just as the representative from Germany, the Swedish minister underlined the necessity of EU member states to share the responsibility to make the system of relocating refugees within the EU finally work.

An average, 3,200 refugees are entering Germany per day, Ole Schröder, parliamentary secretary of state at the German federal ministry for the interior, said. According to him, the number of migrants arriving in Germany has not dropped during the last weeks.

“Schengen is under pressure”, Schröder said. “But we have to name the reasons.”

According to the German secretary of state, the lack of an EU border control system, “especially between Greece and Turkey” as well as the non-functioning common asylum system, are the main reasons.

“As long as there is no EU solution, we have to take national measures,” Schröder added.

Relocation system still not working

The relocation system put in place in September last year is still encountering serious difficulties. So far, only 272 refugees have taken part in the system, which is supposed to relocate 160,000 migrants from Italy and Greece within two years.

One of the reasons why the system is not working remains the lack of refugees willing to participate, an EU source told Euranet Plus. Besides the fear of ending up in an EU country they do not want to go to, many fear the long waiting periods they have to face before they are actually being put on a flight to their final destination.

“Some of those countries participating in the system are taking very long to do the security screening of the refugees entitled to be relocated on their territory,” the source said.

But the same source added that one of the major obstacles still is the fact that not enough EU member states are willing to offer places for refugees coming from Italy or Greece.

  • Author: Daniele Weber, Euranet Plus News Agency