Danish police close motorway as refugees march to Sweden

Copenhagen (AFP) - Police in southern Denmark late Monday closed a motorway as groups of refugees marched towards the border with Sweden, known for its more generous asylum policies.

"This is being done for the safety of the people who are walking along the motorway," local police said in a statement after closing the first 29 kilometres (18 miles) of the road from Rodby harbour in southern Denmark to Copenhagen.

Earlier in the day, up to 150 refugees began marching towards the border but many later agreed to be taken to police stations to register for asylum in Denmark.

They were among around 300 refugees who landed Sunday in Rodby, which has Scandinavia's busiest ferry crossing to Germany.

But scuffles broke out with police when some ran off to avoid having their fingerprints taken in fear they would be registered as seeking refuge in Denmark and unable to go on to Sweden, where many said they had family.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a Monday press conference that around 400 refugees had entered Denmark over the past 24 hours but doubled that number to 800 a few hours later.

"We cannot just ignore our obligations and send them to Sweden without its consent, because then we would be doing the same as many other countries, which is the reason the European asylum system is under massive pressure," he said.

As more refugees arrived in Denmark's south there were also more people taking to the roads to walk towards Sweden, which asylum seekers typically reach by taking the train across a bridge linking Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo.

The bridge is not open to pedestrians.

Many of those walking on the motorway raised their hands as they shouted: "Malmo, Malmo, Malmo," the Politiken daily wrote.

Around 100 Danes had gathered on a bridge crossing the road to hand out food and diapers to the walkers, who had only covered a fraction of the 160 kilometres between Rodby and the capital.

Laila Saied, an engineer from Syria, said she had travelled through Europe with her husband and two children for one month in the hope of reaching Sweden.

"I slept on the street, I was on the sea with my children," she told broadcaster TV 2 News earlier in the day.

Prime Minister Rasmussen said he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Denmark was willing to accept 100 refugees from Germany "given the very special situation Germany and Europe is in."

While Sweden has become a top EU destination for refugees by issuing permanent residency to all Syrian asylum seekers, Denmark has sought to reduce the influx by issuing temporary residence permits, delaying family reunifications and slashing benefits for newly arrived immigrants.

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