The Latest: UN: nearly 770,000 people enter Greece in 2015

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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 12:22 PM
The Latest: UN: nearly 770,000 people enter Greece in 2015

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest in the influx of people into Europe. All times local:

7:20 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says nearly 770,000 asylum-seekers have entered Greece so far this year on their long trek toward a better life in wealthier European Union countries and said more than 200 have drowned en route.

UNHCR data released Wednesday said 58 percent of the 768,916 people arriving in Greece were men, 26 percent children and 16 percent women. Some 60 percent said they were Syrians.

Nearly all arrived on Greece's eastern Aegean sea islands after paying smuggling gangs in Turkey for a berth in flimsy, overcrowded boats. An average of 3,800 people a day have been making landfall this month, compared to 4,560 in November.

The UNHCR listed the total number of Greek Aegean drowning deaths by Tuesday at 217, with another 126 people listed as missing. Another 12 people drowned Wednesday in the Aegean as a smuggling boat sank, and 12 other passengers on it are missing.

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1:45 p.m.

The German government plans to issue a new identity document to migrants arriving in the country amid efforts to improve management of the influx.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Wednesday presented the paper photo ID, which authorities plan to issue to newcomers from February. Migrants will need the "arrival ID" to claim asylum-seeker benefits and conduct asylum proceedings.

De Maiziere said the ID will enable authorities to keep better tabs on where asylum-seekers are and where services are needed.

The government says some 965,000 people were registered as asylum-seekers in Germany between January and the end of November, though the process has been chaotic at times.

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11:55 a.m.

Greek riot police have removed hundreds of protesting migrants from a border crossing to Macedonia, which is denying them entry, deeming them to be economic migrants and not refugees.

The protest had severed a key Greek freight train link with northern Europe for three weeks, and also periodically prevented refugees that Macedonia will accept from crossing the border. The services are now expected to restart soon.

Buses carrying about 650 people, including many from Iran and Morocco, are heading south from the Idomeni border crossing, which police sealed off earlier to remove the migrants. Escorted by police motorcyclists and patrol cars, the buses were expected later Wednesday in Athens, where authorities have set up shelters and will encourage the migrants to make asylum applications in Greece.

Police said 10 migrants were detained for resisting their transfer to the buses. Journalists and photographers were also briefly detained, despite obeying police instructions to keep away from certain areas.

Macedonia only allows migrants from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq through in their long trek north to wealthier European countries. Protesters from other countries say they, too, merit refugee status as they face persecution at home.

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11:30 a.m.

Greece's coast guards say they have recovered one more body, that of a child, from the eastern Aegean, bringing the death toll from the sinking of a boat carrying dozens of migrants from Turkey to Greece to at least 12. Another 12 people are missing, while 26 have been rescued.

The wooden boat was believed to have been carrying about 50 people when it began taking on water near the Greek islet of Farmakonissi early Wednesday. Coast guard and navy vessels, a helicopter and a vessel from the European border agency Frontex were searching the area for the missing.

Greece is the main entry point for refugees and economic migrants seeking to enter the European Union. More than 700,000 people have entered the country so far this year, the vast majority then heading through the Balkans to the more prosperous European north.

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9:40 a.m.

Police in northern Greece have closed a border crossing with Macedonia and are stopping people from getting within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of it following a standoff with hundreds of people who have been denied entry.

Authorities early Wednesday closed the area and briefly detained journalists and photographers at the perimeter. More than 200 riot police have been deployed to the border area at Idomeni following the standoff that has halted freight rail services from Greece to other European countries.

The migrants have been stranded at the border for three weeks after authorities in Macedonia restricted access to citizens from countries normally granted political asylum, such as Syria and Iraq.

Police said the migrants will be moved to Athens in buses.

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9:10 a.m.

Greek authorities say at least 11 people have died and 13 are missing after a boat carrying about 50 migrants sank in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The coast guard said 26 people have been rescued alive. It said the accident occurred early Wednesday when a wooden boat carrying the migrants from Turkey sank near the islet of Farmakonissi.

The dead were five children, four men and two women. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

Greece is the main entry point for refugees and economic migrants seeking a better life in the European Union.