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Denmark may extend border controls beyond six more months, defying EU

Danish Police officers check vehicles at the bordertown of Krusa, Denmark January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Palle Peter Skov/Scanpix Denmark

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark said on Tuesday it would disregard a European Union directive to lift temporary border restrictions within six months unless the bloc “miraculously” secured its external frontiers against undocumented migrants.

More than a million people sought asylum in the EU in 2015. An EU deal with Turkey last year reduced the influx to a trickle though thousands of migrants are still reaching Europe from Libya via sea routes to Italy.

With the number of arrivals well down since 2015, the European Commission said on May 2 that Germany, Austria, Denmark and Norway should remove lift border controls within six months.

But Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen told parliament on Tuesday that the flow of refugees and migrants into Italy and further into Europe “is (still) far too high”.

He added: “We will continue border controls unless the EU miraculously finds ways to regain control of its outer frontiers and Italy curbs the flow of refugees onto (its territory) and further into Europe.”

As part of the EU’s response to the surge of refugees and migrants in 2015, the bloc approved emergency controls in its passport-free Schengen travel zone, despite concerns about the impact on trade.

Earlier this month, the EU executive approved maximum six-month extensions of controls at the German-Austrian border, Austria’s frontiers with Slovenia and Hungary and at Danish, Swedish and Norwegian borders. Norway is in the Schengen zone but outside the EU.

The Swedish government has said it will remove ID checks on journeys from Denmark into Sweden.

Germany has argued that despite the fall in migrants coming through Greece and the Western Balkans, it needs the controls to counter the threat of Islamic militancy in Europe.

Reporting by Erik Matzen; editing by Mark Heinrich