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Swedish Commuters Sue Their Government Over Border ID Checks

The EU's open borders are being slowed by refugee and migrant fears.

Swedish Commuters Sue Their Government Over Border ID Checks
[Photo: L.E. Daniel Larsson via Flickr]

Swedes are suing their government because their commutes are too slow. In Malmö, commuters who cross the bridge that connects them with Copenhagen in Denmark have been slowed down by the recent reintroduction of ID checks between the countries. 100,000 people a day cross the stretch of ocean that separates the countries, by both ferry and by the bridge which carries cars and trains. ID checks for those using public transit have caused significant delays. Significant enough, it seems, for the citizens to take legal action.

Thanks to the open borders across the European Union, driving between, say, France and Italy is no different than crossing a state line in the U.S. The only way you know that you've changed countries are the road signs, and the fact that the road surface just got better or worse, depending on your direction of travel.

The five-mile Øresund Bridge stretches out from Malmö to an artificial island in the sea between the two countries, where it enters a 2.5-mile tunnel to Copenhagen. The cities are so well connected that many people commute the now-short distance between them, and in many ways, you could consider the two cities as one big city.

But, says City Lab's Feargus O'Sullivan, this free movement was curtailed in January 2016 when ID checks were reintroduced at the border by Sweden, to prevent an "influx" of refugees and migrants. In response, Denmark imposed its own controls. This has led to 565 commuters suing for 25 million Swedish Kroner, or almost $3 million, in compensation.

It's not the border control itself that is being contested, but the ID checks which are carried out on rail and bus commuters, causing long delays (up to 50 minutes at the beginning of checks in January). The commuters are seeking compensation. Many have had to quit their jobs, to switch from public transit to taxis, and some have even been forced to buy cars (which are not subject to ID checks) to get to and from work.

For international readers, the real takeaway here is that the refugee hysteria in Europe isn't just affecting backward-thinking countries like England, but is also having an impact in places like Denmark and Sweden, which are usually considered to be open and progressive. For U.S. readers, imagine ID checks at state borders and you'll have an idea of how this feels to EU residents.

Fortunately, the madness may end in November, when the Swedish government will review its decision on border checks, and people using public transit may go back to being treated the same as people driving cars.

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