Copenhagen: Two people are in hospital after authorities pulled them from icy waters off Denmark as they tried to reach Sweden by boat to ask for asylum.
The rescued migrants were part of a group of four who attempted to cross the strait between Denmark and Sweden, where the water is about 8C (46F).
“There were two who were taken to hospital after the rescue operation,” a police spokesman, Henrik Svejstrup, told the Danish broadcaster TV 2 Lorry. He said one was put on a respirator but he was expected to be taken out of a coma later on Tuesday.
Many asylum seekers perceive Sweden as a more attractive destination than Denmark, where measures to reduce immigration have included passing a law that allows police to search newly arrived people for valuables.
Before setting out, the group was reportedly staying at an asylum centre 16 miles (25km) north-west of Copenhagen. Police did not disclose their nationalities.
During the crossing, the group landed on the sparsely populated island of Saltholm, about three miles off the Danish coast. Two people from the group knocked on a resident’s door, prompting her to call the police.
“They asked if they were in Sweden, and said that they wanted to apply for asylum,” the chairman of a local group for residents and farmers, Dirch Jansen Schmidt, told AFP. “She told them they were still in Denmark. She gave them two glasses of water and then they left,” he added.
This was not an isolated case of migrants trying to reach Sweden, which registered 163,000 asylum applications last year and is known for its generous asylum policies.
This month Danish authorities said that between 4 January and 13 April, 46 people had tried to walk through a train tunnel leading to the Oresund bridge that connects Denmark with Sweden.
On 4 January, Sweden began requiring rail, bus and ferry companies to verify the identities of people travelling from Denmark, significantly reducing the number of migrants who are able to enter the country to claim asylum.
Since a spike in applications last year, Stockholm’s centre-left government has said it would introduce temporary residence permits and make it harder to obtain family reunifications.