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Refugee concerns

May 11, 2011

Denmark's far-right has pressured the government into reintroducing security checks at the country's borders with Sweden and Germany. The move comes amid concerns over an influx of migrants into Europe from North Africa.

Police check vehicles
Calls for border checks in Europe are growing louderImage: AP

Denmark is to reinstate security checks at its borders with Germany and Sweden after an agreement between the government and country's main far-fight party.

Denmark is a member of Europe's visa-free Schengen Area, meaning it cannot set up full frontier controls. But the government in Copenhagen said it wanted to conduct random vehicle checks at the Oeresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden, as well as at its land border with Germany's Schleswig-Holstein state.

Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said the customs inspections would enter into force within two to three weeks. "Everything will take place within the limits of Schengen," he said.

"Over the past few years we have seen an increase in trans-border crime, and this is designed to curb the problem. We will be building new facilities at the Danish-German border, with new electronic equipment and number-plate identifiers," Frederiksen told a news conference.

The far-right Danish People's Party had been pushing for the new measures to counter illegal immigration and organized crime. In recent years, Denmark's immigration policies have become among the most restrictive in Europe.

An Italian Coast Guard vessel rescues a boatload of would-be migrants believed to be from North Africa
Refugees continue to arrive on European shores by the boatloadImage: AP

The border controls have been criticized by pro-EU factions within Denmark, who say the country should not be setting up barriers in Europe just months before it takes over the rotating EU presidency in January.

Immigrant influx

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, meanwhile, also called for some degree of border control within the 25-nation Schengen Area on Wednesday, commenting in Berlin that this could make accession to the visa-free block easier for nations such as Bulgaria and Romania.

The move comes amid heightened sensitivities over immigration and border controls in several other EU member states, and as Europe is being flooded with tens of thousands of refugees fleeing unrest in North Africa.

Many Mediterranean states, most notably Italy, have borne the brunt of the influx, pushing Rome to issue temporary travel visas to many of the asylum seekers, allowing them to travel freely to other countries in the Schengen Area.

The issue caused a minor diplomatic spat between Italy and France last month when the French government refused to allow trains carrying activists and refugees into the country from northern Italy.

EU interior ministers are to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the refugee situation and address calls for amendments to Schengen rules.

Author: Darren Mara (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler