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Under Lock and Key: Sweden, Denmark Prolong Border Controls, Vex Locals

Still distressed by the aftershocks of last year's unprecedented refugee influx, Sweden decided to extend its border controls until November 2016 in an effort to keep the number of asylum applications down from 163,000. This measure, however, may prove a disastrous blow for the whole transnational Øresund Region.

Pool on the island of Södermalm in Stockholm, Sweden - Sputnik International
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The controls were first introduced in November 2015 and are now expected to run until at least November. Sweden's southern neighbor Denmark has opted to extend its own controls likewise.

"The EU has recognized Sweden's need for border controls," Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told public service broadcaster SVT.

The number of people seeking asylum in Sweden has reportedly dropped significantly since the border controls and ID checks were introduced. At present, Sweden takes in an average of under 500 asylum seekers a week, as opposed to almost 10,000 a week during the most hectic months of last autumn.

Nevertheless, border controls may not be a panacea, as a group asylum seekers were in May reported to have successfully crossed the Øresund bridge on foot for the first time. According to the local police, the number of unreported cases may well be higher.

Abdallah Salah (L), President of Islamic Relief Sweden, helps refugee's as they register their names upon arrival to Stockholm central mosque on October 15, 2015 after many hours bus journey from the southern city of Malmo - Sputnik International
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Besides, the controls are highly unpopular with many residents of the border region, as regular commuters between Denmark's Copenhagen and Sweden's Malmö have seen their journey protracted by around 40 minutes.

Southern Swedish Chamber of Commerce CEO Stephan Müchler, a consistent opponent of the border controls claimed that people were leaving their jobs out of frustration over the changes to their daily commuting schedule.

"It's a sad blow to the region. We know that the controls cost around one million kronor ($120,353) per day. Besides, they also hurt integration," Southern Swedish Chamber of Commerce CEO Stephan Müchler said as quoted by Vestmanlands Läns Tidning.

The dual border controls have so far cost Sweden's transport operator Skånetrafiken a staggering 24.5 million krona (roughly 3 million dollars) in increased costs and shrinking passenger numbers, the southern Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported. The toll on the Øresund Region's business community and residents is even greater.

Security checks travellers IDs on January 4, 2016 at the train station in Kastrup (Denmark), the last stop before Sweden - Sputnik International
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"I think this is horrible. I do not know what hard working people should do to make ends meet. Now we see single mothers being forced to resign. <…> I think it is terribly arrogant towards the ordinary people who are just trying to have a job!" commuter Marie Irgens Jacobsen told SVT.

"This is sabotaging people's everyday lives. This is sabotaging the environment. This is sabotaging the very idea of the Øresund region," she said.

The Øresund Region is a transnational metropolitan area, centered around the Øresund strait and the two cities on its either side, Copenhagen and Malmö. The Danish region of Zealand is connected to the Swedish region of Scania by the Øresund Bridge. The region has a population of almost four million and is one of Scandinavia's most densely populated areas.

Owing to the Nordic Passport Union, the Scandinavian countries have enjoyed over a half a century of visa-free travel since the 1950s. However, the idyll came to an abrupt end in November 2015, when border controls were first introduced.

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