Swedish legal watchdog rejects proposal for border controls

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The top legal watchdog in Sweden, a major destination for migrants flocking to Europe this year, on Monday rejected a government request for the right to impose tighter border controls and shut a bridge to Denmark.

A group of migrants coming off an incoming train gather on the platform at the Swedish end of the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, in Hyllie district, Malmo, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stig-Ake Jonsson/TT News Agency

The Swedish Council on Legislation said the centre-left government’s plan resembled martial law and would violate refugees’ right to seek asylum in Sweden.

Stockholm imposed temporary border controls in early November, the first in over two decades and a turn-around in its open-doors policy. The country has welcomed almost 160,000 refugees and migrants this year, more per capita than any other European Union country.

Its latest step would fast-track a bill giving it the legal right to tighten the border controls and to close down the bridge between Sweden and Denmark if deemed necessary.

“The proposal has been prepared in great haste,” the Council wrote, adding that meant the draft text had been poorly prepared. “This is particularly serious because the proposal is similar to martial law.”

The council has no legal mandate to disqualify proposed legislation but it is unusual for Swedish lawmakers to disregard its opinion.

However, in a comment to local news agency TT, a government spokesman said it had no plans to withdraw the proposal.

“The Council on Legislation makes a different assessment than the government regarding seriousness of the current refugee situation,” said Erik Brom Anderson, State Secretary to Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson. “The government’s assessment has not changed.”

The European Commission formally authorized Sweden’s temporary reimposition of border controls last month to help get a grip on the large influx of asylum seekers it has seen.

The United Nations said last week the number of refugees and migrants pouring into Europe from countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan could reach 1 million this year

Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Tom Heneghan