Of all the Schengen states that were allowed to carry out internal border controls amid the raging migrant crisis, Sweden proved to make the most of the permission and performed the most checks. Incidentally, Sweden happens to lead the anti-statistics with the fewest illegal migrants captured.
Of all the Schengen states, Sweden carries out by far the most internal border controls among the countries given special permission to do so by Brussels, recent numbers reported by Swedish Radio indicated.
Over 3.2 million checks were carried out at Sweden’s borders between July and August 2016 alone, which is eight times more than in Germany (which carried out less than 400,000 during the same period). Norway carried out slightly over 436,000 checks, as opposed to around 870,000 in Denmark.
Despite Sweden’s seeming vigilance, which manifests itself in the record number of checks, it scored the least in the number of illegal migrants picked up by border controls. Swedish border guards only manage to capture around 300 migrants per month, which is considerably less than in Denmark or Germany.
Swedish border authorities explained the exceptional number of checks with the fact that virtually every vehicle crossing the Øresund bridge with Denmark is being checked, whereas other countries that were allowed border controls only do random checks.
Patrik Engström, the head of Sweden’s national border police, claimed it was difficult to compare the countries’ results due to the various nature of borders, stressing a much higher intensity of traffic incoming from Denmark.
The low figure, however, suggests that migrants are choosing other routes than the heavily guarded Øresund bridge to make inroads into Sweden.
“Of course, there are other routes, such as from Germany or from Poland. We also do see an increased number of people coming in through Finland,” Patrik Engström told Swedish Radio, suggesting that the massive border controls will continue despite the modest result.
The border controls were first introduced in the autumn of 2015 (a year in which Sweden received a record 163,000 asylum applications), when migrants arrived every day by the thousands. This marked a rollback from the EU’s open borders policy and the Nordic tradition of free travel, which was established with the Nordic Passport Union in the 1950s.
The border controls have been since extended several times, vexing Nordics on both sides of the Swedish-Danish border, with many companies sustaining heavy losses and many experts claiming them to be detrimental to the booming economy of the Øresund Region. The Øresund Region is a transnational metropolitan area, centered around the Øresund strait and the two cities on either side, Copenhagen and Malmö. The region has a population of almost four million and is one of Scandinavia’s most densely populated and economically developed.
While the dramatic influx of refugees and the ensuing asylum chaos initially seemed to have spurred Sweden to temporarily set aside its hopes of becoming “a humanitarian superpower,” as former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt put it, the Green Party is still reluctant to accept the toughening of immigration laws and is keen to challenge it.
In 2015, Sweden’s then-Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson of the Green Party notoriously broke down into tears as she announced the government’s U-turn over the refugee crisis. Today, the Greens, for whom immigration seems to be a matter of the heart together with environmental issues, threaten to pull out of the ruling “red-green” coalition.
“I believe the Social Democrats’ rhetoric to be rather unpleasant. If they are sticking to their line, I have it very hard to imagine that we can remain in a government with them,” Sara Richert, Green Party councilor in the city of Örebro told the Swedish economic daily Dagens Industri.