Refugees now free to leave Denmark and head to Sweden

Refugees arriving in the Danish towns of Rödby and Padborg have received the go-ahead to continue on to Sweden as long as they show their IDs, Danish TV2 reports.

On Wednesday, Danish police ordered the closure of road and rail links with Germany in an attempt to prevent an influx of refugees heading north to Sweden.

At a press conference Thursday, Danish police said that refugees and migrants are now free to carry on their journey to Sweden and that they need only to show their IDs.

"The situation is untenable, it requires a political decision," Claus Oxfeldt, president of the police union in Denmark, told Danish news agency Ritzau. 

On Thursday morning, the Danish National Police issued a press statement about its new stance, explaining that refugees who arrive to Padborg in Denmark or to the port of Rödby now need only show their IDs in order to get permission to continue their journeys to Sweden and other countries.

The press release from the Danish National Police states: "The police have only limited possibilities to keep foreign nationals who come to the country."

The statement continues: "Many of them do not want to get in touch with the authorities and have no other desire than to continue the journey to Sweden or to other countries. Therefore, we decided, late Wednesday, that it is no longer possible to retain the thousands of people looking to Denmark."

Oxfeldt said that the situation was intolerable for the police. "Now we must find a solution to this, it is a worldwide problem, which no one can immediately solve at once," he told Ritzau.

On Thursday, Denmark's prime minister Lars Lökke Rasmussen was locked in talks with the other Danish party leaders on the issue.

Danish police commissioner, Jens Peter Höjbjerg, said the police had not discussed their decision with politicians. He also told Ritzau that the police do not have any agreement with Sweden on the freedom of transit for refugees.

The police statement said that those refugees who do not wish to seek asylum in Denmark will have the opportunity to be accompanied to a residence centre where there is food, drink and beds. They must show their identification and must then travel further. Those who do not want to travel to the centre need only indicate their name and show ID, then they may travel on freely.

On Thursday, Danish TV2 reported that there were still people left in Rödby harbour, but between 200 and 300 refugees had already left. According to TV2, private individuals are now running a shuttle service between Denmark and Sweden to take refugees over the Öresund bridge.

Earlier, Denmark's train operator DSB said that services to Germany running through the border town of Padborg would run as normal on Thursday. However, DSB also said that the ferry crossing in Rödby, one of Scandinavia's busiest train ferry crossings to Germany, would remain closed to trains on Thursday due to "police work at the borders".

On Wednesday, hundreds of refugees refused to disembark from trains arriving from Germany, demanding to continue on to Sweden instead. The refugees refused to register with Danish authorities, as that would mean having to apply for asylum in Denmark or returning to Germany. They prefer to seek asylum in Sweden, which has a more generous asylum system.

"We know that many of them want to go to Sweden, but naturally we cannot let that happen,” Danish police spokesman Carsten Andersen told AFP Wednesday.

After lengthy negotiations, around 100 of the refugees agreed to remain in Denmark and file their asylum request there. Around 240 refugees were allowed to disembark late Wednesday without police intervening.

On Wednesday, police also closed part of the E45 motorway near Padborg for a few hours after around 300 refugees, including large numbers of women and children, set off on foot for Sweden.

They had been housed in an old school building after arriving in the town but took to the road, saying they wanted to travel north to Sweden.

Some elderly migrants called off their 300-kilometre trek to Copenhagen, the jumping-off point for crossings by bus, train or car to Sweden.

Denmark’s justice minister, Sören Pind, said he was cutting short a trip to the United States to return home and deal with the situation.

Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven has said previously that he will not strike a deal with Denmark regarding the refugees who have made it there but who want to continue on to Sweden.

Under European Union law, refugees must be registered in the country they first arrive in and begin their asylum application there.

Löfven said the issue of Denmark passing on the refugees to Sweden is non-negotiable and he has not been in contact with the Danish government concerning the matter.

"We have common laws for us to have an orderly system, otherwise we have no order. And it's the country you arrive in where you should be registered," Löfven told Swedish Radio's local channel in Malmö.