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Swedish volunteers working night and day to rescue migrants

SAMOS, Greece -- Another rickety boat filled with migrants sank off the coast of Greece on Thursday. Twenty-five drowned, 10 were children.

Every day, thousands fleeing war attempt the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece. Even in the winter. Teams of volunteers rescue as many as they can.

A group of 57 migrants were so desperate to reach Europe that they abandoned their inflatable raft and stranded themselves on a cliff on the Greek coast.

Winter is normally the quiet period on the Greek coastline. But this year, the rescue teams have been taken by surprise -- in January around 50,000 people have made the dangerous crossing.

That's over twenty times more than last January. This month's death toll is now more than 170 -- including some who tried to make the risky voyage at night, and drowned when their boat capsized.

The Swedish Sea Rescue Service, a group funded by public donations and staffed entirely by volunteers, came to the rescue of the people stuck on the cliff.

They fled Syria, Iraq and Iran. Among them was a tiny baby, and a disabled man who was helped down the cliff face.

In the safety of the rescue boat, Behzad Abbasi comforted his one-year-old son Ermia. He told CBS News that he's a Christian, and that he and his family risked death to flee religious persecution in Iran.

"Here was 50/50 [chance]. Maybe you win, or maybe you lose your life."

The Swedish rescuers are all volunteers, including two firemen, a trainee nurse, and a 73-year-old retiree. Members say they have helped rescue more than a thousand people in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in the three months they have been operating there.


Joakim Brosten

CBS News

Joakim Brosten normally works in IT, and explained the rush of emotions he feels when saving lives."This is my way to give something to people that are in need."

The Swedish team found a group of migrants safe on a Greek beach, but so cold they lit a fire fueled by their life jackets.

As politicians try to stop the migrants from coming, ordinary citizens are dealing with a more pressing need -- keeping people alive.