Sweden’s new photo ID document requirements for travellers trying to cross the border between Denmark and Sweden go into effect as of midnight tonight, marking a key turning point in Europe’s Schengen Zone agreements.
Starting Monday, Sweden will require all travellers wishing to cross its borders to present a valid passport or similar national photo ID. Minors under the age of 18, accompanied by an adult with a valid ID will not be subject to the checks.
“There are no detailed requirements or suggestions as to how this identity verification should be done as we think it’s a question the carriers are best able to work out appropriately,” Johansson told the Swedish news agency, TT. “And we the government will of course follow the developments very closely when this comes into force, and see how it works in practice.”
Swedish operator of the Öresund commuter trains between Denmark and Sweden, Skånetrafiken, had previously announced that all its routes from Denmark would begin at Copenhagen Kastrup airport–which is the final stop on the Danish side of the border.
Any travellers who want to travel from the Copenhagen city centre to Sweden, will have to take public transport to the airport, then change to a train crossing the bridge. Danish rail operator DSB, will check traveller IDs at the airport.
To ensure no one crosses the railroad tracks to circumvent border controls, Copenhagen Kastrup airport has built a fence at this connection point.
“[A]fter discussions, we decided to make it a standard height, so we can use it for something else when this crisis is over,” Lotte Bentzen, spokesperson at Sund og Bælt, told Swedish newspaper Expressen.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has criticised Sweden’s ID check policy, expressing concerns that the process of asylum in Europe could be curbed, were more countries to follow Sweden’s example and impose stricter entry requirements.
“There is a tremendous strain to be on the run and you cannot expect that those who are entitled to asylum will also have the right documents with them from the beginning–it is quite impossible,” Mattias Axelsson, spokesperson for UNHCR in northern Europe, told the Swedish news agency, TT.
Norway has indicated that it will start turning back refugees who do not hold valid visas from other passport-free Schengen zone countries, particularly those travelling from Sweden. Norway’s government has said it will make its asylum policy “one of Europe’s toughest.”
Norway is not a member of the EU but it is, like Sweden, a member of the Schengen area.
By Schengen rules, asylum seekers must apply for a visa in the country where they first arrive, which has generally been in Italy and Greece for those escaping the Syrian crisis. However, many have travelled directly to the country where they want to settle without obtaining the necessary documents.
Sweden has explained that the border controls are necessary to control the flow of immigrants to the country, and to address the difficulties Sweden has encountered in finding immigrants adequate accommodations in the country. More than 150,000 immigrants arrived in Sweden seeking shelter in 2014.
The policy of free transit through Schengen member countries in Europe has been in question since the rise of immigrants from Syria, with additional concerns raised after the Paris attacks.
However, this freedom of movement has become very much a part of daily life for Europeans. These new restrictions are considered by some to be a serious blow to the Schengen Zone’s free-transit policy.