Sweden has reintroduced check points on its border with Denmark for the first time in half a century in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of migrants.
Guards yesterday began inspecting passports on the famous Oresund Bridge between the two countries, which had been the most visible symbol of European integration.
Within hours, Denmark made an emergency request to tighten checks on its southern border with Germany – becoming the ninth country in the European Union’s 26-nation Schengen Zone to bring back temporary controls.
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A temporary fence is erected between tracks at Copenhagen airport’s Kastrup station to prevent illegal migrants entering Sweden
Identity checks will cause several delays and long queues for people travelling via train, bus and ferry from Denmark to Sweden
Sweden, with a population of 9.8 million, took 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015, a higher number of refugees per capita than any other country in the European Union
Berlin officials warned the migrant crisis had again put the passport-free travel area ‘in danger’.
Thousands of commuters travelling across the five-mile road and rail bridge and accompanying tunnel between the Danish capital Copenhagen and Malmo in Sweden were yesterday told to expect their journeys to take half an hour longer than the usual 40 minutes.
The decision to close the borders to those without passports or ID cards marks a massive turnaround for the Swedish government, which had been the most welcoming to migrants but changed course after more than 160,000 applied for asylum last year – the highest number per capita in Europe.
In September, prime minister Stefan Lofven said: ‘My Europe takes in people fleeing from war, my Europe does not build walls’, but by last month he admitted ‘[we] cannot cope’.
Security staff check passenger ID’s at Kastrup airport’s train station outside Copenhagen
Extra security staff were on hand to oversee the new border controls
Another fence has been erected between domestic and international train tracks at Hyllie train station in southern Malmo, Sweden
Yesterday the government said it ‘now considers that the current situation, with a large number of people entering the country in a relatively short time, poses a serious threat to public order and national security’.
Michael Randropp, a spokesman for a commuters’ association, said: ‘It’s as if we are building a Berlin Wall here. We are going several steps back in time.’
Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen announced the immediate introduction of controls at the German border at midday yesterday – 12 hours after the Swedish checks began.
‘When other Nordic countries seal their borders it can have major consequences for Denmark,’ he said. ‘It can lead to more asylum seekers.’
The train station Copenhagen International Airport in Kastrup is the last stop before crossing the Oresund Bridge into Sweden
Anyone who fails to provide ID documents will be turned back and travel operators who fail to comply risk a fine
The Swedish government has passed a law making transport companies responsible for ensuring that those arriving via the Oresund bridge carry valid photo ID.
A security staff checks the ID of a passenger at the train station Copenhagen International Airport in Kastrup to prevent illegal migrants entering Sweden
German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer responded: ‘Schengen is very important but it is in danger.’
A spokesman for Leave.EU said: ‘The EU’s catastrophic failure to manage the migrant crisis has led to some of the most pro-EU countries introducing identity checks for the first time in 60 years.
‘This does not, however, address the underlying problems of the free movement of people. As soon as migrants have an EU passport, they are free to travel to any European country they want to.
‘What this shows is that countries need the ability to act in their own interests. The only way we can achieve this is to vote to leave the EU.’
A temporary fence to ease border control preventing illegal migrants to enter Sweden, erected between domestic and international tracks at Hyllie train station in southern Malmo. The station is the first stop after crossing the Oresund Bridge from Denmark.
Danish police escorted more than 300 Syrian and Iraqi refugees from a motorway near the German border as they try to reach Sweden
Refugees board a train at the train station in Flensburg, Germany, in an attempt to reach Denmark