Sweden And Denmark React Towards Refugee Influx

In the European Union Sweden, which is home to 9.8 million inhabitants, is the country that has taken on most refugees in relation to its population. In 2015 Sweden received a record high number of 163,000 asylum applications, but the authorities suspect that about 45 percent of those will be rejected. According to the Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, the police force and migration agency have been set the task to deport between 60,000 and 80,000 refugees and migrants. In 2014 only half of that amount, 81,000 people, applied for asylum, 35,000 of which were granted. According to EU Commission obligations, Sweden is responsible for returning anyone with insufficient refugee status. The Swedish authorities will use chartered air-crafts to carry out the massive evacuation, which will take several years. The police and evacuation forces are prepared that migrants with insufficient status will disappear from the immigration system in order to prevent expulsion. Anders Ygeman said to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri that severe consequences would be subject for companies seeking to recruit illegal workforce, a tactic that would ease the evacuation process and reduce the willingness for migrants to stay. Swedish opinion polls earlier this week showed that the support for the ruling Social Democrats are at its lowest for 50 years. Many suspect that Prime Minister, Stefan Löven’s, inability to deal with the major influx of Middle Eastern and North African refugees stands for the result.

Since the 4th of January 2016, the number of refugee arrivals in Sweden and Denmark has dropped due to the implementation of tighter border controls. Sweden announced that they would stricter rules for residence permits and introduced systemic photo ID checks on travelers from Denmark. This decision was made after receiving about 10,000 arrivals every week in November, mainly from Denmark. Travelers without valid identification documents were denied to on-board buses, ferries, and trains; cars are however, an exception. Shortly after the Swedish decision, Denmark followed suit and launched new controls on their German border. The Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen justified the new controls to prevent “illegal immigrants to accumulate in and around Copenhagen,” the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports. Swedish justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, who’s given the thumb up for the Danish controls, also argued that the stricter controls could help the authorities with issues of terrorism. But not everyone agrees with the new ID controls as their introduction may encourage refugees to resort to more dangerous routes into Sweden. Peo Hansen, professor of political science at Linköping University, argues that there is a risk that smuggling and falsifications of IDs within EU would increase as the borders tighten.

More recently on the 26th of January, Denmark passed another measure to deter incoming refugees; a law permitting Danish police to confiscate migrants that pass into the country of money and jewelry. Both the ruling centre right wing Venstre and the center-left Social Democratic parties championed the new law, which passed by an impressive 81 votes in favor and 27 against. Legal affairs spokesperson and member of the left wing Enhedslisten party, Pernille Skipper, however condemned her colleges after the passing of the bill. According to Skipper, seizing valuables from people fleeing war is an inhumane way of treating vulnerable people. The bill will allow seizing possessions, over the value of $1400. While jewelry, gold and silver is included; the lawmakers have made an exception of possessions with sentimental values, such as wedding rings. The income from the valuables will then be used to pay for the cost of asylum seekers in Denmark. Internationally the legislation have received a bundle of criticism, Amnesty International, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN refugee agency have officially commented the controversial bill. The Amnesty International Director of European and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen, argued “to prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plan wrong.” However, Denmark isn’t the only country in Europe to introduce these measures, Switzerland and German state Baden-Württemberg already seizes valuables. But according to Zoran Stevanovi, spokesperson of the UN refugee agency, the law opposes the human rights standards that Denmark traditionally has been an inspiration of. Despite both Denmark and parts of Germany seizure valuables, migrant advocates criticize Denmark for only accepting 20,000 refugees in 2015, while Germany took on-board over 800,000. The European Union has failed to spread out the flood of refugees across the EU member states, as many Central European nations refuse to welcome people from countries in crisis. Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, belong to that category of nations that have presented strongest resilience.

The new Danish measures also prolong the family reunification among refugees from one year to three years. This means that refugees with granted status in Denmark cannot apply for family reunification for another three years, despite them being left in war zones in Iraq or Syria. Simultaneously, the temporary protection status has been limited to one year, making it impossible for anyone without permanent status to unite with family members. The more recent anti-immigration policies in Denmark can be explained by the slam victory of the center-right coalition last year, which, with major public support, promised to adopt stronger measures to limit the number of asylum seekers. Dan Jorgensen, Social Democrat, respond to objections of the bill by arguing that the alternative would be that Denmark would become like Sweden, an attractive destination for asylum seekers. Ulf Hedetoft, who is a professor of International Studies at the University of Copenhagen, argues that Denmark have adopted a model which considers refugees as a “potential threat to civic society and cultural solidarity…and seen as a burden rather than a resource.” Sanna Vestin, chair of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups, FARR, also believes that refugees should be seen as an investment instead of a burden in a society’s future.

But refugees forced to return back to their home countries are not always welcomed, a major problems for nations responsible for deporting rejected asylum seekers. While many immigrants come from conflict areas, Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia, and therefore often qualify as refugees, not everyone can prove their refugee credentials. Establishing the nationality of an asylum seeker may be problematic, especially since many realize economic classified migrants from sub-Saharan Africa or the Western Balkans, often fail to receive asylum. In November last year European Union offered their African counterparts £1billion in exchange for taking back illegal migrants. The deal was however rejected by the Africans at a summit in Malta, which force EU to stop deportation of asylum seekers without passports.


Sally Wennergren