Sweden has become the latest country in the European Union to turn to controversial border controls to stem the current influx of refugees, many from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Africa, and South East Asia.
Sweden initially said it would grant residency to all Syrian refugees that came to its shores, according to Bloomberg Business. However, the large numbers of refugees have meant that Sweden, a country of only 10 million people, has had to change its position.
So far this year, an estimated 120,000 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan especially have found their way to the Sweden with an estimated 80,000 more planning to arrive by the end of the year. In order to slow down the surge of refugees, Sweden has encouraged asylum seekers to stay in Germany or other European countries. But with hopes of jobs, housing and state benefits, refugees continue to head north to Sweden.
A relocation scheme has been put together by the European Union that will allow countries to ask for refugees in their countries to be located to other E.U. countries. However, this scheme is only open to Greece and Italy at the moment because they are front line countries in the refugee crisis.
Sweden isn’t the first country to institute border controls. Germany and Austria have recently reinstated border checks, even though both European Union countries are in the Schengen zone, which usually allows for passport-free travel across its borders. Sweden is now following suit.
Sweden appears to be at a breaking point. According to the Financial Times, a Sweden immigration services official flat out stated that Sweden just does not have any more room. Time magazine quotes the interior minister of Sweden, Anders Ygeman, saying it is time for others to step up to the plate in the current refugee crisis.
“Sweden is the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for the refugee crisis…the other countries also have to take their responsibility.”
RT further quotes Ygeman voicing his concerns over the unprecedented levels of refugees arriving on his country’s doorstep.
“A record number of refugees are arriving in Sweden. The migration office is under strong pressure… and the police believe there is a threat against public order.”
Sweden’s border checks will start Thursday and be in place for 10 days. Legally, this is as long as they can control the border under Schengen rules. However, after that the controls can be extended by 20 days at a time. Border controls will be targeted at what are said to be key entry points, including the Oeresund bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden.
Meanwhile, further south in Europe, Slovenia has begun stringing razor wire along its border in an attempt to gain control over the refugee crisis.
Since Hungary closed its border, Slovenia has become a main route through the Balkan states that refugees have been taking to get into Western Europe. With all of these European countries closing their borders, there are concerns that the Schengen zone, an important marker of a unified Europe, will eventually collapse.
Border controls are welcome news to some. Along with the increase in refugees coming to Sweden, there has been an increase in the activities and membership of far-right groups angry about their arrival. The BBC reports that there have been a number of attacks against asylum centers.
The far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats Party, which has sprung out of neo-nazi ideology, has been growing in popularity and this has Sweden’s immigration minister, Morgan Johansson concerned.
“We haven’t heard rhetoric like this in Europe since the 1930s. It really worries me.”
And while Johansson is upset about the rise of the far-right, the BBC reports he is also frustrated with the rest of the E.U. when it comes to helping refugees.
“The rest of Europe has to help. We cannot year after year be doing more than any other country. We cannot just throw women and children back into the war – that is a moral obligation for us – but the UK has to help, Portugal has to help, Spain has to help. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe have to help. You can’t just take the finances of the EU. You also have to take responsibility in difficult times.”
The arrival of refugees is far from over, but already some of the European Union’s wealthiest countries, including a once open and welcoming Sweden, are exasperated by the situation and eager to regain control.
[Photo by Alex Domanski / Getty Images]