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Swedish volunteers rescue 1000 refugees

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A previous rescue attempt in the Mediterranean. Photo: TT
16:42 CET+01:00
A Swedish project to help rescue refugees stranded in the Mediterranean has saved 1000 lives since October, the organisation leading the initiative revealed on Friday.
The Yellow Boats project, known as Gula Båtarna in Swedish, was launched last autumn, at the height of Europe's refugee crisis.
 
Part-funded by media company Schibsted and run by the non-profit Swedish Sea Rescue Society (Sjöräddningssällskapet), the initiative involves trained volunteers travelling to waters around the Greek island of Samos, a popular arrival point in Europe for people fleeing violence in Syria and other war-torn nations.
 
On Friday morning, Sjöräddningssällskapet revealed that one of its boats had rescued 34 people in an operation that took the total lives saved by the Swedish project to 1000.
 
"First we went to a small peninsula where were able to pick up 29 people. Almost immediately afterwards we got an alarm from a boat in distress. After a short search we located a very tiny inflatable boat with four men in it," Kari Oikarinen, a spokesperson for Gula Båtarna, told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet (which is owned by Schibsted) on Friday.
 
"It went very well. Those rescued were very tired, they fell asleep almost immediately when they come aboard our boat," he added.
 
Andreas Arvidsson, COO of Sjöräddningssällskapet, told Aftonbladet that rescuers had been out "almost daily" since the project got under way, either collecting people stranded in the water "or from places where they had gone ashore and had not been able to get away again without the risk of dying".
 
Sweden -- which has long had a global reputation for openness and tolerance -- took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation last year, many of whom crossed Europe to seek new lives in the northern country after first making dangerous sea crossings to Greece and Italy.
 
However the Yellow Boats project continues as Swedes become increasingly divided over how the Nordic nation and the rest of Europe should be reacting to the ongoing refugee crisis.
 

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One recent opinion poll showed that around 41 percent of respondents thought Sweden should grant fewer residency permits, compared to just 29 percent in September 2015.
 
Sweden introduced border controls on November 12th resulting in a fall in the number of arrivals, with this dropping even further after migrants were forced to show ID on trains, buses and ferries entering the country in a separate move starting on January 4th.
 
Earlier this week the Swedish Migration Agency said that refugee arrival numbers had dropped from a weekly peak of nearly 10,000 in October to around 100 per day.

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