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Denmark and Sweden are abandoning open borders in the face of the migrant crisis

Reuters/Fabian Bimmer
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By Frida Garza
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Denmark and Sweden have imposed border controls to restrict the number of migrants coming into their countries—the latest blow to the EU’s passport-free travel zone.

After Sweden imposed photo ID checks along its border with Denmark today (Jan. 4), Denmark decided to tighten its own border with Germany (paywall). Denmark’s integration minister Inger Stojberg said her country was “faced with a serious risk to public order and internal security because a very large number of illegal immigrants may be stranded in the Copenhagen area.”

A passport-free travel zone established by the Schengen agreement in 1995 for many countries in the EU, including between Sweden and Denmark, mainly via the Oresund bridge between Malmo and Copenhagen, the second-longest bridge in Europe. But the return of border controls will also restrict the flow of citizens and commuters who typically criss-cross borders without much a hitch.

About 20,000 people travel between Danish city of Lund and the Swedish city of Malmo every day, the BBC reports, and the new measures are expected to add 30 minutes to what is now a 40-minute journey.

Denmark and Sweden are the latest countries to make it harder for migrants to enter. Their measures occur geographically further along in the flow of migrants into Europe, and follow moves of similar border closures much closer to popular points of entry. In September, Germany temporarily reinstated controls on its border with Austria, and just one day later, Austria restricted traffic coming in from Hungary. Germany has by far taken in the most refugees of any European country, with more than 1 million asylum-seekers arriving in 2015.

Before that, Hungary had announced it would build a fence on its border with Serbia, which is already not in the passport-free travel zone established by the EU’s Schengen agreement.

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