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Welcome to the first press briefing of the New Year.
I have called the press briefing to inform you that the Danish Government has decided to temporarily reintroduce border control at the border with Germany beginning today at 12 pm.
This is a major step. It must be seen against the background of the serious migration- and refugee crisis facing Europe. This is probably the most serious and complex crisis we have seen so far this century.
I am well aware that there are no simple solutions. But there are realistic and responsible answers to the current challenges. We can and must protect and take care of Denmark.
We must also do so in the immediate situation, where the other Nordic countries are taking steps to control their borders.
At the end of November, Norway introduced temporary border controls. A requirement was introduced at the same time that transport companies – that is trains, busses and ferries - must check passports and visas.
In December, Finland required the Finnish carrier Finnlines to check visas for passengers arriving by ferry from Germany. This step was introduced in addition to earlier requirements to check passports and photo ID cards.
Lastly, as you know, in addition to its border control, Sweden has required ID control on busses, trains and passenger ships. These controls entered into force at midnight.
The objective is to prevent refugees without passports and photo ID from seeking asylum in Sweden. Norway, Finland and Sweden want fewer asylum seekers.
The new Swedish requirements will create problems and difficulties for Danes who live in Sweden and for Swedes who work in Denmark. To the extent possible, Danish State Railways (DSB) is trying to make things work. This is also the approach of the Danish Government. Regardless of what we may think about the regulations introduced by the Swedish Government, we will try to make things work and aim to reduce the negative consequences.
However, trains will be cancelled. Ferries will be delayed. Many people will spend significantly more time travelling to and from work. The freedom of movement will be affected. To the detriment of growth and prosperity in the Oresund Region. This will be a huge setback. But it is also the reality.
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The fact that the other Nordic countries are now trying to stop people at their borders may have significant consequences for Denmark. It may lead to more refugees and migrants being stopped on their way north and end up in Denmark.
This is because Denmark is situated where it is, geographically as a bridgehead from continental Europe to Scandinavia.
Since the beginning of September, more than 91,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Danish-German border. Out of these, more than 13,000 have applied for asylum in Denmark, while the rest of them have probably moved on to Sweden, Norway and Finland. Altogether, Denmark has received approx. 21,000 asylum seekers in 2015.
Recently, the number of those applying for asylum in Denmark has gone down. In November Denmark received around 5,100 asylum seekers. In December this figure had fallen to around 2,700. That is approximately below 90 a day. Over Christmas and New Year the number has fallen further to around 55 a day.
But we still have a significant influx of migrants and refugees who come to Denmark from Germany.
Therefore, the new Swedish requirements for ID-checks will lead to a significant risk that at a very large number of illegal immigrants may be stranded in the Copenhagen area within a short period of time. This could be a risk to public order and internal security.
We do not wish that. It is in this light that we feel compelled to introduce temporary border control at the German border.
We do not want to see refugees and migrants walk on our highways again. We have to ensure law and order.
Border controls do not imply that we can reject those who apply for asylum in Denmark. As I have stated at several occasions, it cannot be ruled out that border control on the contrary will lead to more asylum seekers. When police at the border asks whether people wish to apply for asylum, this can have the result that more will answer “yes” to that question.
When the government nevertheless has decided to reintroduce temporary border controls this is the result of careful considerations on what is the better for Denmark, as a whole.
Border control will mean that the police are more visible. It will help the authorities get the best possible overview of the inflow of immigrants. And it will also provide the opportunity for stopping those at the border who do not wish to apply for asylum in Denmark, and deny their entry into Denmark.
If necessary, illegal immigrants can be detained in the reception centers we have created. Here their identities and purpose of stay in Denmark can be established.
This is due care. We must maintain law and order.
Since early September, Danish police has already had an increased focus on the areas bordering Germany.
By temporarily reintroducing border control it will be possible for the police to monitor the border itself. At the same time, we will intensify control. We will deploy more police. And we will increase visibility and presence.
The control will be aimed at passengers arriving by ferry in Rødby and Gedser and at persons, cars, busses and trains crossing the Danish-German land border in Southern Jutland. The temporary border control will be conducted as spot checks, based on ongoing monitoring of cross-border traffic.
Control does not mean that everybody from Germany will be checked. The police will not ask everybody to show their passport.
We will continuously calibrate control to what is necessary to ensure public order and internal security. We will monitor the situation closely. We are prepared to deploy additional police officers. But it is obvious that the police we deploy at the border, cannot at the same time solve crimes and ensure safety in the rest of the country.
The measure we have taken aims to balance freedom of movement in the border region, the need to maintain law and order, and the resources of the police to solve other important assignments.
We will temporarily introduce border control for 10 days. After that, it can be prolonged for another 20 days, if the serious threat to public order or internal security has a longer duration than the 10 days. It will also be possible to prolong the duration further.
The government will not at present introduce a new obligation for carriers as made possible by Parliament – that is, the requirement that for instance train and bus companies must control travel documents and visa for foreigners entering from Germany.
Based on our assessment of the situation at this stage we have decided to prioritize the freedom of movement. Many Danes and Germans are dependent on being able to cross the border every day. We should make every effort to avoid the same chaos and problems that the new Swedish rules can cause in the Oresund Region.
But let me underline that if it becomes necessary to introduce an obligation for carriers to control travel documents at the border with Germany, we will do so – and this could be with short notice.