Sweden has said it expects to expel up to 80,000 migrants whose asylum requests will likely be rejected, as another 24 people including children drowned off Greece Thursday in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
As the continent grapples with efforts to stem a record flow of migrants, Swedish interior minister Anders Ygeman said the mass expulsions of people who arrived in the Scandinavian country last year would require the use of specially chartered aircraft and be staggered over several years.
“We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000,” he told the Swedish media, adding that police and migration authorities had been tasked with organising the scheme.
Of the 58,800 asylum requests handled by Swedish migration authorities last year, 55% were accepted. Many of those requests were however submitted in 2014, before the large migrant flow began.
Sweden, a country of 9.8 million, is among the European Union states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita.
More than one million people travelled to Europe last year — the majority of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — in the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War 2.
Most cross by boat from Turkey to Greece and the United Nations says more than 46,000 people have turned up on the EU member’s beaches so far this year, while 170 people died making the dangerous journey.
On Thursday, the bodies of 24 migrants, including nine children, were discovered off the Greek island of Samos after their boat capsized and 17 others were still missing, the Greek coastguard said, a day after seven other bodies were found near the island of Kos.