Sweden: 14 detained for smuggling migrants across bridge

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2015 9:42 AM

MALMO, Sweden (AP) — Swedish police say they have detained 14 people accused of smuggling migrants from Denmark in defiance of Europe's asylum rules.

Police spokesman Lars Forstell on Tuesday said those detained were suspected of illegally transporting migrants across the Oresund bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Malmo, Sweden.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the suspects were part of organized smuggling networks or individuals who wanted to help migrants come to Sweden for humanitarian reasons.

The bridge has become another flashpoint in the European Union's attempts to keep its asylum rules intact as tens of thousands of people arrive on its borders seeking shelter from war, persecution and poverty. Under EU rules they are supposed to apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, not travel from one country to the next.

Dozens of migrants and refugees arrived at Malmo's central station on Tuesday by train, bus or car across the bridge from Copenhagen.

Anders Holsteng, a 35-year-old teacher from Denmark, said he had called in sick on Tuesday to drive a handful of Syrians to Malmo after giving them shelter overnight.

"I believe it's my duty to help people on the run," he said.

Danish police have urged people who want to help migrants to donate food or clothes but to not shelter them illegally or smuggle them across borders.

Still, many are making it across to Sweden, with or without help. The Swedish Migration Agency said about 700 people have applied for asylum in Malmo since last week.

Sweden is widely considered among the most welcoming countries toward asylum-seekers. Germany was the only EU country that gave shelter to more refugees last year.

Hossam Khatib, a Syrian asylum-seeker from the city of Homs, said he wanted to go to Sweden because he had heard it was "a good country."

"They are very friendly," Khatib said after being welcomed by volunteers offering food, coffee and advice at Malmo's central station. "Now I can smile."


Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.