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Knocking On Fortress Europe has been working on raising awareness of the refugee-situation in the European Union since 2013. Visit the webpage and send an email on: www.knockingonfortresseurope.com

The European Union of Ghettos

After a few months after Swedish authorities closed the border, it is time to carry out a citizens test the crossing. For those who are not familiar with southern Swedish geography, the two countries are connected by a bridge, with the Swedish city Malmö on one side and the Danish capital Copenhagen on the other. Despite the fact that Malmö has its own airport, the Copenhagen airport is both closer and more frequented. Consequently, most airborne international traffic enters Sweden via Denmark. Before the ID checks were in place, this was as easy as landing in Malmö. The two cities have over the years grown together to one region, and the border has been free to cross since 1958. This has changed.

If you land in Copenhagen today, inbound from an international destination, your passport will be checked at the Copenhagen airport as usual, but after this, you’d better not put it away. Danish border check will check it again upon entering the train platform. Not even after you board the train you can relax. As soon as the train arrives on the Swedish side, the Swedish border check will again ask you for an ID, before you are allowed to continue.

Let us assume that you arrive from a country within EU with special restrictions, such as the UK, with an extra ID check before you even enter the plane, then we end up with the final count of four ID checks on the way between two countries in the same European Union, with its vision to promote free speech, trade and movement.

Is this the Union we stive to create?

NOTE: This article does not go into detail of the much more serious consequences for refugees and others without a valid ID, as this has been much debated in other forums. For instance, Swedish Radio has published an good investigative documentary on the border situation (in Swedish).

Thank You, IS

We hardly had time to start debating the effects of the extraordinary actions in response to the increased number of refugees from Syria and the IS, when IS gives us further reason to bring the question of migration and refuge to the table. Regardless of the terrible tragedy to the innocent involved, this is the time to extend a thanks to the Islamic State, if they are in fact (as they claim), responsible for this appalling act.

Migrants from Africa and the Middle East have been arriving to the European Union in ever increasing numbers for the past several years, often at great personal risk to themselves. The situation is now affecting not only the governmental agencies specially equipped to handle these matters, but the society as a whole. The question of how to deal with the situation has caused increasing discussion between representatives of the EU member countries. Together with other causes of disagreement (the financial situation comes to mind) the tone of the debate has sometimes reached an alarming tone. Nothing is so devastating for any relationship as financial trouble and disagreements on the division of labor, and on occasion sometimes there has been a feeling that the EU is soon ready for marriage counseling. Under the pressure of every day activities  – of how to provide for refugees, attempting to share finances equally and regulating detailed laws in a fair fashion – in this daily toil we sometimes forget to raise our heads, and see what it is we are working for.

What we have forgotten to ask ourselves is the reason why we came to be the target for all those people on the move, hoping for a better life. Can it be so, that if so many people strife so hard to enter this Union, even risking their own life in the process, that there is something in this it worth striving for? The terrorist attacks on Paris by IS makes us ask the same question. Why were we targeted?

The answer to both can only be one.

So thank You, IS, for making us raise our heads, and see what You offer on the other side. Thank You for making us remember why we constructed this Union of Europe in the first place. Thank You for making us remember why we made the choice of going down the road of collaboration instead of competition, consensus instead of confrontation, words instead of arms, peace instead of war. Thank You for reminding us that our way of life is worth our support, and that it is in need of our constant protection, so much more in the face of the alternatives.

Let us hope that the promise we gave to each others when entering this union was no less than the commitment of a marriage. In bad times, as in good times, till death do us part – even with marriage counseling if necessary.

Control of the Swedish Border

open door copy

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.