Swedish ID checks on buses, trains and ferries between the country and Denmark were dropped last week for the first time since they were brought in at the start of 2016. At the same time, the Swedish government announced that it would strengthen border control spot checks by police to cover more travellers.
And border police in the south of Sweden say that in the four days since the ID checks stopped on May 4th their controls detected 24 people looking to seek asylum in Sweden, up from an average of five per week earlier in 2017.
“I think its just the start of what could happen in the future. First the message of the ID checks being taken away has to catch on before we can see the bigger effect here in Sweden,” Michael Mattsson, head of Sweden's Border Police in the south region told Sveriges radio.
Migrationsverket's figures do not yet show an increase in the number of asylum seekers. Last week 328 people sought asylum in Sweden, a decrease compared to the week before where the number was 384, as well as lower than two weeks ago (347). There can be a delay in applications entering the system however.
The agency believes that there is a greater likelihood of more people seeking asylum in Sweden than previously predicted now that the ID controls have been eliminated, but despite that say they so far have no reason to change their latest forecast for the number of people expected to seek asylum in the country during 2017.
An April 26th forecast predicted that the number of people expected to seek asylum in Sweden over the course of the year will fall between a low of 22,000 and a high of 45,000, with the estimate for planning purposes set at 34,700. The forecast includes provisions for an increase in the number of asylum seekers during the coming summer and autumn.
“What we see now is that the likelihood of the lowest scenario has decreased, and we can see a development bringing it closer to the number estimated for planning purposes. The likelihood of a large increase, which would see numbers move closer to the highest scenario, is judged to be small,” Migrationsverket analyst Arvid Zheng Norin said in a statement.
The monthly average number of asylum applications in Sweden has been 1,982 in 2017 so far, compared to 4,168 in 2016, and 4,865 in 2015.