Denmark steps up border controls

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2011 12:15 PM
Denmark steps up border controls

Denmark on Wednesday joined an increasing number of European countries seeking tighter border controls, saying it will install permanent stations along its frontiers to curb crime and illegal immigration.

Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said police and customs officials will use the stations to do random checks of cars and passports, and increase the use of scanners designed to detect illegal immigrants hiding in vans.

He said control booths will be erected at crossings to Germany and Sweden and in harbors and airports.

Hjort Frederiksen insisted that since the controls will be random they "will be within the framework of the Schengen system" _ a free-travel agreement that has removed compulsory passport controls between many internal borders in Europe.

The system has been under pressure recently with the EU Commission considering reintroducing national border controls in the face of a flood of North African immigrants.

Last week, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom suggested reintroducing temporary national border checks "under very exceptional circumstances" after France and Italy had demanded changes to the Schengen system.

Mediterranean border nations like Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta have also complained that the 27-nation EU has dumped its immigration issues and the costs of dealing with illegal immigrants on their backs.

The agreement in Denmark was made to meet demands from the government's nationalistic ally, the Danish People's Party, and is expected to be approved by Parliament.

"We see a rise in cross-border crime: drugs, eastern European gangs, human trafficking, money smuggling, etc. And one of the efficient ways to fight this is border control," Hjort Frederiksen said. "It will be put in place as soon as possible."

Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said Denmark was "cracking down" on transnational crime.

"Denmark must be a safe country and we will do everything that is possible to combat the rising crime from abroad," Barfoed said. "It will otherwise not impede the free crossing of borders by citizens and businesses."

Some 270 million kroner ($52 million) have been earmarked to build booths, buy electronic equipment and provide more resources to police and customs.

When Denmark joined the Schengen system a decade ago, border barriers were removed and control stations shut down. Instead, random customs and police checks were carried out across the country.