Swedish parliament says yes to ID border checks

175 members voted yes, 117 abstained and 39 voted against the new law outlining Sweden’s tough new border regime at the famous bridge linking Sweden and Denmark.

It is set to come into force on January 4th and will apply to trains, buses and ferries from abroad, including Germany, but is likely to have the biggest effect on passengers travelling from Denmark.

The plans, which will see public transport companies tasked with implementing the checks, have been criticized by operators and unions warning of travel chaos in the busy commuter region.

“Our members should not carry out jobs that we believe authorities should perform. They have neither the training, nor the authority or competence to execute these kinds of controls,” Johan Ingelskog, a spokesperson for trade union Kommunal, told the TT newswire ahead of the debate.

The Moderates, Liberals and Christian Democrats, who had proposed a separate amendment saying the law should apply for six months only as opposed to the planned three years, abstained from voting.

The ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats voted for the government’s proposal, while the Centre Party and Left Party voted against it.

“With this proposal we won’t be able to live up to international conventions on the right to asylum. It is extremely serious. We have initiated a closure of borders in the EU,” Torbjörn Björlund of the Left Party told his fellow members of parliament during the debate.

Several members of the Green party had been openly critical of the proposed legislation ahead of the vote. However, in the end only one, Rasmus Ling from Malmö, voted against the bill. His colleague Carl Schlyter abstained along with Social Democrat MP Sara Karlsson.

More than 150,000 refugees have travelled to Sweden in the past year, which has struggled to find accommodation for the new arrivals. The government’s justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, told the Aftonbladet tabloid that he saw no cause to celebrate winning the vote.

“If you had asked me three months ago if we would have to do something like this I would never have believed it myself. This is not something you want to do, but sometimes when you’re in government you have to do things you don’t want. For the simple reason that you have to, that the alternative is worse,” he said.

Sweden has seen a nationwide dip in the number of people claiming asylum in recent weeks, following news of the tigher border checks and a government announcement that it would cut the numbers of residency permits made available.

While in October around 10,000 people were registered in a week, Migrationsverket statistics suggest that 4,721 people sought asylum across Sweden during the first seven days of December.

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