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Open-door policy: Police organise a trainload of refugees arriving from across the Oresund Bridge at Hyllie station, Malmo, last November (©Johann Nilson/AFP/Getty Images)


In 1999, Frederik, the Crown Prince of Denmark, met Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden, 223 feet above the Oresund strait. On the newly-built Oresund Bridge (now made famous by the eponymous crime thriller) in white hard hats they hugged and celebrated the five-mile-long construction that connected their countries. Few things embodied “ever closer union” more clearly. Since its completion, Swedes and Danes have been whisked back and forth between Copenhagen and Malmo as easily as New Jersey commuters crossing the Hudson River to Manhattan.

Only last March, the border between Sweden and Denmark was thought sufficiently meaningless for Copenhagen’s mayor Frank Jensen to call for Skane county, the southernmost region of Sweden that includes Malmo, to be rebranded as part of “Greater Copenhagen” to make it “an interesting area to locate your European or Scandinavian HQ”. There was some debate over the name, with some preferring the more neutral “Scandinavia Bay Area” but many Swedes saw potential in the idea — roughly equivalent to Dover becoming part of “Greater Calais” — including Dages Industri, Sweden’s largest business newspaper.

A year later, these trans-national plans are distant dreams. The migrant crisis means borders are back. When the Swedish government imposed identity checks on the Bridge in January, what had stood for 16 years as a monument to European openness and Scandinavian cooperation became a symbol of a continent creaking from the strain of its newcomers.

These checks mean 30-minute delays during rush hour, with Swedes working in Denmark now having to change trains at Copenhagen airport, where passengers’ identity cards are photographed and a hastily-built fence divides the platform for trains to Sweden and the rest of the station. Then, at Hyllie Station, the first stop in Sweden, police board the train and IDs are checked again. When I took this journey in late January, the passengers I spoke to were understanding. Many had shared trains with asylum seekers last year, including those without any documentation. “The government had to do something,” said one passenger. And yet, however justifiable the added security, the delays have put on hold the economic integration that these commuters exemplify.

Last year, nowhere in Europe was more generous to refugees than Sweden. Some 160,000 people applied for asylum in the country, more per capita than anywhere else in Europe: 1,575 applicants per 100,000 Swedes. By way of comparison, in Germany there were 520 arrivals for every 100,000 citizens, in Britain just 42. When numbers were at their highest, Sweden took in as many refugees in two weeks as David Cameron has promised to accept from Syria in the five years to 2020.

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Arnie Ward
March 3rd, 2016
10:03 AM
The Roman Empire was undermined by the hordes of Goth refugees they allowed in - how long can Europe and Western Values survive the current onslaught?

Observer
February 25th, 2016
9:02 PM
You say "creaking under the strain of newcomers". I say "creaking under the strain of invaders". The invasion of Western European nations no longer requires force of arms. A plausible tale of victimhood and deprivation gives the invader the right to demand to make a home in their chosen nation.

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