Sweden to intensify border controls following Koran burnings

AFP , Tuesday 1 Aug 2023

Sweden's government said Tuesday it intended to "intensify" border controls due to a worsened security situation in the wake of several protests involving desecrations of the Koran.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (L) and Justice Minister Gunnar Stroemmer address a press conference on the country s security policy and to present measures to protect Swedish citizens following the Koran burning protests, in Stockholm, Sweden on August 1, 2023. AFP


Tensions have flared between Sweden and Muslim countries following several protests involving public desecrations of the Koran -- including setting pages alight.

"People with very weak ties to Sweden should not be able to come to Sweden to commit crimes," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a press conference, adding an official decision to step up border controls was expected Thursday.

On Monday, two Iraqi men -- Salwan Momika and Salwan Najem -- burned the Muslim holy text at a protest in front of Sweden's parliament.

The duo had previously staged similar protests outside Stockholm's main mosque and Iraq's embassy in the Swedish capital, leading to widespread outrage and condemnations.

Those protests prompted Iraqi protesters to storm the Swedish embassy in Baghdad twice, starting fires within the compound on the second occasion.

Last week, Sweden ordered 15 government bodies including the armed forces, several law enforcement agencies and the tax office to strengthen anti-terrorism efforts.

Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said the intensified border checks referred to so-called inner border controls -- meaning border checks for people travelling into Sweden from other Schengen nations.

"The inner border controls enable us to identify incoming travellers that can threaten our security," Strommer told reporters.

Sweden reintroduced inner border controls in May 2022 citing a worsened security situation, a decision made in line with common EU legislation.

Strommer also noted that new Swedish legislation came into force Tuesday, giving police wider powers to conduct controls within Swedish borders, including vehicle and body searches.

"The purpose is to strengthen police work and prevent threats to domestic security," Strommer said.

On Monday, the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation voiced "disappointment" with Sweden and Denmark for not taking action following the spate of burnings.

Sweden's government has condemned the desecrations, while stressing the country's constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly.

Kristersson reiterated however Tuesday that the government was evaluating Sweden's legal system to explore a potential change.

"It would be about widening the process for handling permits for public gatherings so that one can look at a wider security perspective," the head of government said.

Over the weekend, Denmark also announced it would explore legal means of stopping protests involving the burning of holy texts in certain circumstances.

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