GWEN IFILL: After declaring that its welfare system was collapsing under the strain of up to 200,000 refugees, Sweden today became the latest European country to impose border controls. The nation has accepted more refugees per capita than any other country on the continent. But its appeals to other European nations to share the burden have been largely ignored.
Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Lunchtime today at Hyllie, the first station in Sweden across the bridge from Denmark, and police begin border controls over concerns that the huge refugee influx is endangering law and order and the country's internal security.
MAN: You don't have any I.D.?
MALCOLM BRABANT: Sweden's increased security has put another nail in the coffin of the Schengen system, which is supposed to guarantee complete freedom of movement within most of the E.U., although police spokeswoman Ewa Westford played down the significance.
EWA-GUN WESTFORD, Skane Police: We are rather a little bit nervous and a little bit how should we do it, is it all right? And we think, yes, because Sweden would like to have a human police, so we are not going into the trains and blah, blah, blah.
We are going into the trains and say hello and be very polite. We are looking for people who will come to Sweden and look for asylum. We are looking for people who have I.D. cards. And so they should be allowed to come here.
WOMAN: Who wants to seek asylum, freedom?
MALCOLM BRABANT: These people escorted off the train were being helped seek asylum, even though many of them didn't seem to understand the word. This is only supposed to be a temporary measure lasting no more than 10 days, but the government does have the ability to be able to extend it if it wants.
It's bound to cause panic amongst refugees along on the trail stretching back to Turkey. And the question they will be asking is, is this the start of the domino effect? Are other countries along the line now also going to institute border controls?
In Malmo, Sweden's most ethnically diverse city, the new controls has been welcomed by retired police chief Torsten Elopsson, formerly in charge of criminal intelligence.
TORSTEN ELOPSSON, Retired Police Chief Superintendent: We don't have the capacity to take in that many people that we are at the moment. The public services are overloaded. You have the social workers that are down on their knees. You have the education system that is challenged.
You have job opportunities that are very low. Right now, we don't know actually who is coming into the country. They just vanish, disappear. We don't have any control over the situation in that sense. What will happen to those people that are living here illegally? They have to support themselves one way or the other. The fear is that you will have more criminality, more social disorder.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Refugees expecting to start their new lives in the bustling Swedish metropolis face disappointment. For thousands, their first homes will be tents like these deep in the countryside of one of the coldest countries on earth, and the Swedes have delayed erecting heated and insulated tents because of planning commission concerns.
In the past year, anti-immigrant extremists have set fire to more than 20 places across Sweden that either housed refugees or were intended as temporary shelters. The country's migration board is now refusing to say where it will accommodate newcomers because of the fear of arson.
Despite ministers saying that Sweden is on the verge of collapse, Hillevi Larsson, who represents Malmo in Parliament, remains upbeat about her nation's generosity toward refugees.
HILLEVI LARSSON, Social Democrat MP: Absolutely convinced that we can do it, because we have the experiences from the '90s, when we took many refugees in a short time, so we have learned from that, and now we have many old people. Somebody has to support them, and now we have many refugees coming who are young, well-educated people. So I think they could really benefit the Swedish economy.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Don't you think Sweden and Germany have really made a huge mistake in opening the doors wide open? Because you have sent a signal to every person who is disenfranchised around the world that Europe is wide open, and it's showing that it can't cope.
HILLEVI LARSSON: No, I think it's is the opposite. I think that will send a message to other countries that they also have to take responsibility.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Another station, another country, more refugees and migrants. This is the Rostock in Northern Germany, the end of the line on the Baltic Sea coast, a port city with ferry links to Sweden.
Actor Tobias Hamann is one of dozens of volunteers helping to speed the passengers on their way north.
TOBIAS HAMANN, Volunteer: Many of them want to hurry. They are afraid that they will close the doors totally to Sweden. They all want to be very quick. And they — sometimes they are a little bit afraid that they won't make it in time because there are not too many places on the ferries.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Fighting between the Taliban and the national army in the Afghan city of Kunduz has driven this family of seven to seek refuge in Scandinavia. The family spokesman is 17-year-old Qais Ahmadiar.
QAIS AHMADIAR, 17-year-old from Kunduz, Afghanistan: We want to go to Sweden because I feel they're — I feel good here, and also our brother and family is also here.
MALCOLM BRABANT: This was one of the last ferries to leave Rostock before the Swedish government tightened its borders.
The Swedes have told refugees that they should consider staying in Germany or elsewhere, because they can't be guaranteed accommodation. But the message has not filtered downer the line. Keeping a keen watch on Sweden's crisis is Marcus Knuth, the integration spokesman for the center-right Danish government, which has slashed welfare benefits and tightened the rules governing family reunification in order to make the country less attractive to refugees.
Sweden is going to be asking other nations to take its migrants. Will you take them?
MARCUS KNUTH, Integration Spokesman, Danish Government: No, because we think Sweden has basically put itself in the situation that they're in. I think it's a bit ironic that first they say to the world's refugees come here, and then when they receive close to 200,000, their system collapses and then they say, well, we don't want them anyway, now other European countries need to take them.
We have taken our fair share of the burden and we will continue to do so, but Sweden has put itself in the situation that they're in.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Politicians from the Danish People's Party like Soren Espersen determine whether the minority government in Copenhagen survives or falls. Espersen and his party are angry that the Danish prime minister has so far ruled out introducing border controls as well.
SOREN ESPERSEN, Spokesman, Danish People's Party: I believe that Europe is in total chaos. Germany, Sweden, the two countries that's mainly caused this problem, and now Sweden, of course, introducing border control, it will mean that we have to do the same, but, unfortunately, our prime minister behaves like an ostrich, like so many other political leaders in Europe do at the moment.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Back in Rostock, there is acute awareness that Swede's new measures could lead to more refugees requiring shelter on the city's dime.
But Mayor Roland Methling is a staunch advocate of Germany's open door policy to migrants.
MAYOR ROLAND METHLING, Rostock, Germany: Yes, it would be a German problem. That would be a European problem if Sweden were to close their own borders. I'm sure we can solve this problem, not only in Rostock, but you have to solve it in Germany.
But at least we can solve this problem only if we could find a common way in Europe and at least we have to find a common way, and not only in Europe. We have to find the common way with the United States, with Russia, with China. And only in this combination we could build up a future to every people or this world. Everybody has a right to live in a human world.
MALCOLM BRABANT: This new video from the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats opposition party shows their members on the refugees trail urging would-be asylum seekers to stay away. But these images from Hyllie station send a more powerful message.
For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Malcolm Brabant in Sweden.