Open door policy
Thursday, 12th November, the Swedish Border Police initiated ID checks at a few places along the south and west borders. The last time there were border checks for non-Nordic citizens at internal Nordic borders was in 1958.
The action is intended as a temporary measure, and is not very surprising, given that Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Finland has done the same thing for some time. However, both the intended and the actual effect of this action merits some consideration.
Swedish Police states on their website that asylum seekers will be treated as usual, and that the right to seek asylum will not be compromised, but that persons not seeking asylum, or persons who can not prove their eligibility to enter the country satisfactorily, may be refused entry. The result may paradoxically be that the number of applications for asylum will increase as a consequence. Anyone who is entering the country, for whatever reason, without the legal right to do so, and is caught, may feel obliged to seek asylum. Already, Aftonbladet reports cases where people have entered Sweden with the intention to continue to Denmark, Norway or Finland to seek asylum there, but when being detained at the Swedish border felt forced to seek asylum.
The Swedish Police further states that controls will be random, and that every person crossing the border will not be checked. A total control is not possible, says Patrik Engström, in charge of the Police Border Division. One could image. More than 15.000 people commutes daily across the Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark on a daily basis.
The trains alone between Malmö and Copenhagen leaves every twenty minutes for most of the day, which gives a total 3 transports per hour or about 70 per day. If calculating half the commuters to use the trains (the rest by car or ferry), this gives us an average of approximately 100 people per train. Anyone who has ever used those trains will soon spot the underestimate, especially during the most popular commuting hours.
If we assume a successful passport check (that is a check which leads to now further interrogation or detention) takes 10 seconds, it would then take 16 minutes to check all the passports on the train. Given a police salary of 25.000 SEK per month, the cost of this check would be about $300/day for one very efficient police Officer to carry out. A reasonable cost, for better order, one may think.
In reality however, we may expect a somewhat different picture. We will leave it up to the Reader with an economic interest to add the cost of Swedish tax, pensions and mandatory compensations to the cost.
With regards to the speed of the check, we leave it to the Reader skilled in particle flow simulations, to calculate the average speed for a average weight, average fit and average socially competent police officer to maneuver through a swamped train cart at rush hour.
Finally we leave it up to the Reader with a social interest, to calculate the cost of delays to the over 15.000 commuters every day, including the domino effect of their customers and employers.
However small or large, there is a cost to consider. One may assume there is also the expectation of a gain at some point. Unfortunately, the comments from responsible, as well as the single day used to take the decision, seem to indicate that not much planning has taken place. Instead, the comments from the authorities breaths of an experimental approach. The checks are to last for 10 days initially, with potential prolonging, depending on the effects.
The decision to start the border checks has a background in the situation at Migrationsverket, says Mikael Hvinlund, communications manager, to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter (Daily News). The hope is that controls will result in a more structured refugee reception.
Police are not allowed to perform checks based on ethnic origin, gender, race or appearance. One may wonder how effective a check can be if the police is not allowed to check anyone who looks like an immigrant. Of course, what is stated in the police manual, what is communicated officially and what takes place in practice, are very different things. When the CEO at Migrationsverket was interviewed in Swedish radio on Thursday, the work “dignity” was repeated several times. One may wonder if not an informational booth at the border, giving aid and information when asked, would present a more dignified reception into this country.