Protestors Blocked Trains Over New Anti-Refugee Restrictions at the Sweden-Denmark Border

Sweden and Denmark have introduced tight new border checks to stop the number of refugees coming to Scandinavia, and some left-wing and pro-refugee groups are upset.

by Andreas Digens and Theo Rogowski
Jan 11 2016, 4:44pm

A protestor faces off with a security guard at Copenhagen Airport. All photos by Alexander Zehntner unless otherwise stated

More than 800 Danes and Swedes congregated by the trains from Denmark to Sweden at Copenhagen Airport on Saturday to protest the newly-instated border control between the two countries. As of January 4, the Swedish government requires everyone entering the country by train, bus, or ferry from Denmark to show a valid photo ID. The move is explicitly an effort to decrease the number of refugees entering Sweden. In response, the Danish government has implemented temporary border control towards Germany.

A mock passport made by protestor Salim Assi

The new border checks have been criticized by the Swedish Green Party as well as several Danish left-wing parties that have called for joint European solutions and "stable agreements" between the two neighboring countries. On Saturday, protestors shouted support for refugees, with slogans like: "Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here."

Søren Warburg of Refugees Welcome.

The Danish protestors met in central Copenhagen to receive instructions by Søren Warburg of Refugees Welcome, who organized the Danish side of the protest. "Everyone is pushing the responsibility on to their neighbor, but the fact is that no one can succeed alone," he told the crowd via megaphone before they made their way towards the airport.

They then met up with a group of Swedish protestors led by Stellan Lindell of the Green Party, who told VICE: "The protest is a show of solidarity with the refugees who can't have their legal right to asylum sought in Sweden because they don't have any identification papers. The goal is to make the government listen and terminate the controls at the airport."

The Hjelmstedt-Krantz family. Photo by Theo Rogowski

Among the protestors were Martin Hjelmstedt and Hiro Krantz who had brought along their kids Vilmer and Astrid. "There are thousands of reasons for not having a passport, and most refugees come here without one," said Hiro Krantz. "I grew up in Helsingborg, with Helsingør as the closest neighboring city. This is the first time in my life that I have had to show my passport when traveling between Denmark and Sweden. This is totally absurd, and it breaks my heart."

A small group of protestors succeeded in breaking through the checkpoints without showing identification, but their efforts were quickly shut down by the police. Trains between Denmark and Sweden were briefly cancelled following the incident but no arrests were made.

Salim Assi

Protestor Salim Assi arrived in Denmark in 1992 as a refugee from Palestine. "I know how the refugees are feeling. I've been there," he told VICE. "They feel like shit. No one chose to leave their country for the fun of it. They come, because they have to. I believe that by demonstrating here today, we can showcase that not everyone supports the policy Denmark is leading these days."

Each day, around 20,000 commuters cross the Oresund bridge, which connects the Swedish cities Malmo and Lund to Copenhagen. The extra security checks are believed to be adding around 30 minutes to the current 40-minute commute.

Trains to Sweden resumed after around half an hour after Saturday's protests, but not all travelers took kindly to the delay. "Can't you just kick out the protesters?" a woman asked an airport security guard in the arrival hall. "Just go out on the platforms and threaten them with guns. Why don't you just threaten them with guns?" The guard politely explained that they wouldn't do that even if they had guns.

After some more timid confrontations between travelers and protesters in the arrivals hall, things quieted down. An orderly line was formed to the re-opened checkpoints, where everyone going to Sweden presented a photo ID, boarded the train, and went home—including the Swedish protestors.

Disgruntled traveler at CPH Airport.

Back at Malmö central station, on the Swedish border, we asked the disgruntled traveler from Copenhagen Airport, how she had perceived today's events. "What good does it do to stand around shouting, ruining everyone else's trip? They should get involved in politics instead," she said. "Too many people are coming here anyway, we can't take care of them all. Our schools and healthcare and economy will collapse. And we don't know what sympathies they have, or how they treat women. Haven't you seen how they treat their women?" she asked, before running off to catch a connecting train.

But the controversy over the new checks looks set to continue. Emergency talks will be held by the EU on Wednesday after Germany warned the checks could jeopardize Europe's principles of free movement. In the meantime, the border checks will stay.