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Denmark Introduces Measures To Slow Migrant Flow


People in Denmark got a shock this week. For the first time in 50 years, Danes crossing the main bridge leading to Sweden had to show a picture ID at the border. That's because the bridge has also carried thousands of migrants into Sweden, a welcoming country that now wants to slow things down.


And controlling Sweden's border is having a ripple effect. Denmark is tightening its own border with Germany. That's in order to turn away migrants coming through Denmark and headed for Sweden without proper documents.

MONTAGNE: Lars Lose is Denmark's ambassador to the U.S. He joined us to explain why his country is temporarily spot checking people at its border.

LARS LOSE: The thing is when all these countries introduce border controls - and especially Sweden introduced the border controls -we'll have to do the same in Denmark. Otherwise, we will have a situation which is mainly security concern that all the legal immigrants who are not allowed going into Sweden will be stuck in Copenhagen.

The fact is that we'll actually probably see that more people will seek asylum in Denmark after we introduce border controls than before because when you approach refugees and migrants at the border between Germany and Denmark, telling them, you cannot go to Sweden, perhaps, if you don't have the papers necessary to go to Sweden or Finland or Norway, but do you want to seek asylum in Denmark? Some of them will probably say yes.

You have a heated discussion in the U.S. about how to do a vetting procedure for refugees from Syria, for an example. Imagine that in Europe and Denmark, we have no vetting procedure at all before they turn up in our country. It's a huge challenge, and it is a security challenge, as well.

MONTAGNE: You know, I gather that the Danish government put an ad or ads in Lebanese newspapers aiming to tell people - don't think that this is a paradise.

LOSE: Exactly. What we saw back then when the ads were put in, which was actually decided before the refugee and migrant crisis started in September, was we need to do this - other countries have done the same - because we saw that human traffickers actually put in advertisements saying that you should go to Denmark because, well, this is heaven on earth. You will get these and these benefits. You will have a cruise ship going to Denmark. We saw that on Facebook, all over social media. We had to correct that, so they put in the ads to clarify - what can you expect if you go to Denmark?

MONTAGNE: And pretty much what was Denmark telling people to expect?

LOSE: They told people that there was a cut in benefit. But, of course, they'll still have the access to health, schooling system - educational system - like everybody else, but that there was a cut in 50 percent in the benefits you could receive in Denmark.

MONTAGNE: Now that Sweden has tightened up its border control, it turns out that the main bridge into Sweden from Denmark - you know, it includes everybody who goes across that bridge into Sweden. How our Danes feeling about that - the fact that they now are stopped at the border?

LOSE: You cannot overestimate the magnitude of this decision that we have to show identity papers when going to Sweden or going to Denmark from Sweden because the principle of free movement of people in Europe is a cornerstone of the European Union, the European cooperation (ph). We should be very careful not to destroy that because it's the foundation of the European cooperation, or it is one of the founding pillars of the European cooperation. This is a big, big decision, not only between Denmark, Sweden, but also between the Nordic countries and EU, as such.

MONTAGNE: Well, Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.

LOSE: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: Lars Lose is Denmark's ambassador to the U.S. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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