German-Danish motorway closed after hundreds of refugees march

COPENHAGEN – Danish police closed a motorway linking Denmark to Germany on Wednesday after around 300 refugees, including children, marched across the country.

Many refugees are moving across Denmark from Germany to reach Sweden, which has one of Europe’s most open policies toward asylum seekers. Many have refused to register in Denmark, where a centre-right government has cut refugee benefits.

“We are trying to talk to them and tell them that it is a really bad idea to walk on the motorway,” a Danish police spokeswoman said, adding it was too early to say if it will become necessary to use force to get the group off the motorway. She did not know the destination of the group.

The refugees had left a school in the southern Danish town of Padborg and started walking north, the spokeswoman said. Another 200 refugees in three trains arriving from Germany have refused to leave the carriages in the Danish town of Rodby, fearing that being registered by police would force them to seek asylum in Denmark rather than Sweden.

“We know that many of them want to go to Sweden, but naturally we cannot let that happen,” police spokesman Carsten Andersen said. “So right now, we have asked them to start a dialogue. We are waiting patiently for some of them to agree to that and stick their heads out of the trains.”

Sweden has taken by far the largest number of refugees per capita in Europe. In absolute terms, with more than 80,000 asylum seekers last year, it is second to only Germany.

The Danish government took out adverts in four Lebanese newspapers this month to outline government measures including cuts of up to 50 percent in benefits for asylum seekers. The Immigration Ministry said Denmark sought to reduce the number of asylum seekers but still expected 20,000 refugees this year compared with 14,000 in 2014.

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