Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Migrant Crisis: Sweden Operators Cancel Trains On Longest Road-Rail Bridge In Europe

Sweden's state-owned train operator SJ is to stop services to and from Denmark because it cannot carry out identity checks demanded by the government to stem the influx of refugees.

Under a new Swedish law, transport companies will be fined if travelers to Sweden do not have valid photo ID.

SJ said it would not have time to check people traveling between Copenhagen and Malmö over the Öresund bridge.

Sweden has received about 150.000 asylum applications already this year.

The government has secured a temporary exemption from the European Union's open-border Schengen agreement, in order to impose border controls.

About 18.000 people commute to work daily across the bridge, Radio Sweden reports.

SJ said all services between Denmark and Sweden would be suspended from 4 January when the new law comes into force.

"Our planning of the introduction of ID border checks in Copenhagen before the departure of SJ trains bound for Sweden has shown that we are currently unable to carry out ID checks in accordance with the requirements of the new law in the amount of time allowed", the operator said on its website.

It added it had chosen to "cancel its departures until there is a working solution in place".

Skånetrafiken, the Swedish operator of the Öresund commuter trains between the two countries, announced on Tuesday that in the new year all its routes from Denmark will begin at Copenhagen airport, the final stop on the Danish side of the border.

It means travelers wanting to go from the center of Copenhagen to Sweden will have to use connecting public transport to the airport where they will change to a train crossing the bridge.

The checks will be carried out at the airport by Danish operator DSB, which will outline how they are going to work in practice at some point over the Christmas holidays, said Skånetrafiken.

But according to regional newspaper Sydsvenskan a "wall-like fence" is set to be built at the airport's railway station separating the platforms for Sweden-bound and Denmark-bound trains to prevent travelers from crossing the tracks to avoid controls.

Rush-hour trains going in the other direction from Sweden to Denmark – which are not directly affected by the ID checks – will only run every 20 minutes, as opposed to today's every 10 minutes.

“In rush-hour fewer trains will cross the bridge, and it will get crowded at certain times”, Skånetrafiken press secretary Joakim Borgudd told the TT newswire.

One million migrants have arrived in Europe by land or sea in 2015, the International Organisation for Migration says.

Along with Germany, Sweden is one of the main destinations of choice - with over 150.000 applying for asylum in 2015.

In contrast, Denmark expects to receive about 20.000 asylum seekers this year.

Last week a Danish government proposal to seize asylum seekers' valuables to make them pay for their stay drew sharp criticizm.

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