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Swedes take 600 rescued migrants to dock in Italy

A Swedish coastguard ship carrying more than 600 migrants plucked from boats drifting off Libya's coast was to dock in Palermo late on Thursday, Swedish officials said. But 52 of those on board are understood to be dead.

Swedes take 600 rescued migrants to dock in Italy
Some of the migrants reached by the Swedish coastguard on Wednesday. Photo: Swedish coastguard
The Swedish ship Poseidon rescued 130 people from a rubber dinghy and another 442 people from a wooden boat found drifting off the Libyan coast on Thursday. Fifty-two people were found dead in the hold of the wooden boat.
 
The number of dead has varied in reports – with initial estimates putting the figure at 40 – and the Swedish coastguard said on Friday that difficult conditions had initially made it hard to get an accurate number.
 
“It [Poseidon] is due in Palermo around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) tonight,” coastguard official Robert Primus told AFP.
 
“Now they have been able to get into the hold properly and count and there are 52 dead,” he said.
 
“The vessel has all the survivors and dead on board, and all of them will be taken off the ship tonight,” Primus said.
 
 
The Swedish vessel was in the area as part of the EU border agency Frontex's search and rescue mission known as Triton.
 
Poseidon is expected to leave Palermo for Valletta later Thursday, Primus said.
 
Calm weather this week appears to have encouraged the smugglers to get as many people as possible out to sea, knowing that, in most cases, they will be picked up by Italian or international boats and taken to Italian ports.
 
More than 110,000 migrants have so far landed at Italian ports this year. A further 160,000-plus have arrived in Greece.
 
But at least 2,300 migrants have died at sea this year during attempts to reach Europe, almost invariably on overcrowded boats chartered by people smugglers.

IMMIGRATION

Stockholmers gather to welcome refugees

Volunteers headed to Stockholm's central train station on Tuesday to welcome refugees with clothes, food, and coffee. One told The Local that some Swedes don't realize how lucky they are to live in such a safe place.

Stockholmers gather to welcome refugees
Stockholmers prepare to greet refugees at the central train station. Photo: TT
Sahar Zamani, 40, has been at Stockholm's central train station since early on Tuesday morning. 
 
“I heard through Facebook that refugees would be arriving in Stockholm so I didn't waste any time,” she told The Local. 
 
Together with around a dozen other volunteers, Zamani (pictured below) has already welcomed a handful of refugees who took a cross-country train from Malmö in southern Sweden, where 230 asylum seekers have arrived since Monday afternoon. 
 
“They were scared, they thought we were police… but we just told them we were here to help and gave them food and drinks,” Zamani said. 
 

Sahar Zamani said: We cannot close our eyes to this. Photo: TT
 
It is unclear if any of the refugees arriving in Stockholm were among those those who marched along a Danish motorway on Monday, reportedly chanting “Malmö, Malmö, Malmö” as they earlier attempted to travel to Sweden on foot. They had previously run away from police in southern Denmark to avoid having their fingerprints taken, for fear they would be registered as seeking refuge in Denmark and unable to go on to Sweden, where many said they had family.
 
Since the weekend, Danish motorists have been arrested for “smuggling” refugees over the border into Sweden, while one Danish woman has described how she helped some sail across the Öresund strait between Denmark and Sweden.
 
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 permitsdelaying family reunifications and slashing benefits for newly arrived immigrants.
 

Refugees march along a motorway in Denmark on Monday. Photo: TT
 
Since arriving on Swedish soil, the latest batch of refugees travelling from Denmark have had an easier passage to Stockholm after rail operator SJ relaxed its rules on checking identity papers and on luggage restrictions, with one spokesperson telling The Local that the company was “showing its humanitarian side”.
 
Some of the refugees who arrived in the Swedish capital on Tuesday were heading onward to Finland, and volunteers at the station have also helped them find their way on to ferries. 
 
 
Sahar Zamani said that she had no intention of leaving the central station in the coming hours, having heard that more refugees would arrive throughout the day.
 
The group of volunteers – which was mobilised via a Facebook campaign on Tuesday – is armed with clothes, food, coffee, and plenty of bottles of water.
 
A small Swedish boy among them was photographed by the TT news agency holding up a sign saying 'welcome refugees' in English.
 

A child holds a sign welcoming refugees in Stockholm. Photo: TT
 
“There are no words to explain what these people have gone through. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I can't just stand by and watch what's happening and say to them: 'No, you can't come here'. It's a human right, plain and simple,” said Zamani, adding that she hoped that many other Swedes felt the same.
 
“I want to treat people how I would want to be treated if I was in the same situation. There shouldn't be any holding back, especially when there are children involved. We cannot close our eyes to this. Think that 99.9 percent of Swedes will never have it as bad as these refugees have had it. I am here to do all I can.”
 

Stockholmers prepare to greet refugees at the central train station. Photo: TT