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Swedish support for EU membership plummets amid refugee crisis – poll

Swedish support for EU membership plummets amid refugee crisis – poll
Swedish support for EU membership has dropped amid the European refugee crisis, with the majority of citizens saying the bloc is heading in the wrong direction, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Swedish polling company TNS Sifo and commissioned by public broadcaster SVT, asked 1,142 people aged 18 to 79: “What do you think in general about Sweden being a member of the EU?”

It found that just 39 percent of Swedes believe that being in the EU is a positive thing, compared with 59 percent last autumn.

Around one-fifth of the respondents said that membership was a bad idea, while just over half said the EU was going in the wrong direction. A mere 8 percent said they believe things are improving.

Experts have linked the results to the ongoing refugee crisis faced by Sweden and other EU countries.

However, TNS Sifo noted that the results could have been affected by a change of methodology. The most recent poll was based on an online questionnaire, while the previous poll consisted of individual interviews.

More than 160,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden last year. Stockholm initially implemented an open-door policy for those fleeing war and persecution, but later back-tracked, saying it needed “respite” from the influx of new arrivals. It then re-introduced border checks and tighter residency rules.

Since then, refugee numbers have dropped dramatically, with around 500 to 600 people making the journey to Sweden each week, compared to 10,000 weekly last autumn, according to official figures from the country's migration agency, Migrationsverket.

Meanwhile, Europe continues to face the worst crisis since World War II, with over a million asylum seekers arriving to the continent in 2015. Most of the refugees are from Syria, where a civil war has killed 250,000 people and displaced more than 12 million since 2011, according to UN figures.

The apparent discontent among Swedish residents comes as Britain gears up for a June referendum which will determine whether it remains within the EU or makes a 'Brexit.' A YouGov poll released last week suggests that 40 percent of Brits will vote to remain in the bloc, while 39 support the UK leaving. The rest are undecided or do not plan to vote.