EU Fails to Defuse Passport-Free Clash in Northern Europe

  • Germany, Denmark, Sweden parcel out blame for refugee overruns
  • Only 272 of promised 160,000 refugees find homes, data shows

German, Danish, Swedish and European officials blamed each other -- and political leaders across the continent -- for the refugee overruns that have led to the reintroduction of passport checks in northern Europe.

A migration crisis session in Brussels on Wednesday ended with Germany identifying Greece’s lightly policed sea border as the cause of the problem, Denmark telling refugees to go elsewhere, Sweden confessing that it’s swamped and the European Union’s head office appealing for “solidarity.”

Morgan Johansson and Inger Stoejberg

Photographer: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

“Our problem at the moment in Europe is that we do not have a functioning border-control system, especially at the Greece-Turkey border,” German deputy interior minister, Ole Schroeder, told reporters afterward.

The latest threat to no-passport travel in much of the 28-nation EU started when Sweden began stopping traffic on its border with Denmark, leading to controls on the Danish-German frontier and prompting the bloc’s home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, to plead for a “return to normal as soon as possible.”

The scale of the challenge was dramatized by data showing that EU governments have rehoused only 272 of a pledged 160,000 refugees, leaving Germany, Sweden, Greece and Italy as the main interim hosts of people fleeing wars in the Middle East.

Swedish Plea

Sweden renewed its call for the equitable distribution of refugees, as required by EU laws passed last year, and invoked the rule -- widely seen as broken beyond repair -- that refugees apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach.

“We cannot do everything, we have to share responsibility among all member states,” Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said.

The largest movement of people since the dislocations after World War II has stirred tensions among commercially and culturally like-minded countries in Scandinavia.

“We don’t wish to be the final destination for thousands and thousands of asylum seekers,” said Danish immigration minister, Inger Stoejberg. She said Denmark is ready “at very short notice” to sanction transport operators for bringing in illegal migrants.

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