THE BLOG

Sweden Imposes Border Controls

12/11/2015 15:29 GMT | Updated 12/11/2016 10:12 GMT

"Passport please" a request that I'd never heard before today on board the train across the Oresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark, in almost two years of daily commuting between the two Scandinavian countries. There are approaching two hundred thousand reasons why those two words will now be asked by police officers at Swedish border crossings, that's the number of migrants and refugees who've made their way to Sweden this year alone. In the last month the country has taken almost double the amount of refugees that the UK government has promised to take over the next five years. And they keep on coming. Local authorities are turning museums into dormitories, tents are being erected in parks, Sweden's famous open-door for refugees is now being closed due to lack of space. Using laws to protect internal security, Swedish ministers have imposed temporary border controls. The police are checking cars and boarding trains, at the first stop after the bridge from Denmark, in Malmo; a city of 300,000 and of around 174 nationalities. A final destination for many who've been making the long journey from Syria and Iraq, where the central station has been a refugee reception centre all through the summer. Now, into the first chills of winter, the 'refugees welcome' posters, a common sight around the city, are beginning to fade.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in Malta to plead his countries case at talks between EU and African leaders, is keen to make other European countries understand that while migrants and refugees pass through most states, the majority are aiming to settle in Sweden and Germany. The Swedish have always been far more generous, taking more refugees per capita than any other country, and now they want their fellow EU members to share the burden. Closest neighbour Denmark is refusing to help. In fact it's striking to note that the Danish right wing is urging the Danish government to copy the Swedish action and impose border controls as well, that's got to be the first time Sweden's stance on immigration has been admired by the most right-wing Danish party.

It is the right wing in Sweden as well that will be encouraging the border controls to be extended after this initial ten day period. In some voting districts around Malmo, the Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-nazi roots, has been getting around a third of the share of vote in elections. Extremists have been burning down migrant hostels in a series of arson attacks. Although opinion polls conducted throughout the 2015 migrant crisis suggest the majority of those asked in Sweden approve of the open-door policy on refugees, privately Swedish friends question the country's ability to cope. They worry about schools, health care and the impact on society. Many Swedes regard it as a human duty for a rich country to allow those who need refuge in, no questions asked. Now the request "show me your passport" is being asked and there many more questions which need to be answered before Sweden can decide how it will cope with it's overwhelming influx of humanity.