The Latest: France says Turkey must fight trafficking groups

AP News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 3:19 PM
The Latest: France says Turkey must fight trafficking groups

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

The French interior minister says Turkey must reinforce its fight against trafficking networks who "are at the root of the tragedies" suffered by migrants who risk the perilous sea crossings to Greece.

Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday that Turkey has a key role to play to decrease the flow of migrants by preventing people from departing for Greece.

He spoke to reporters following talks with his Turkish counterpart, Efkan Ala, who said Turkey has cracked down on some 4,500 smugglers since 2012. He added that policing Turkey's "difficult" and "indented" coastline was an onerous task.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb migration. The European Union pledged 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help improve the conditions for refugees in Syria in return.

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5:45 p.m.

Officers from Greece's coast guard joined colleagues from the police and fire service in a stage demonstration in central Athens against austerity measures and a planned overhaul of the pension system.

More than 2,000 officers joined the march to parliament, chanting "We are people too."

Coast guard patrol boat captain Vassilis Delibitis told the AP he and his colleagues felt left down by the government, despite their work in rescuing refugees and migrants reaching Greece's shores from Turkey.

"All the measures taken by this government should be taken back because they are leaving us in extreme uncertainty," he said. "We feel like we are being punished."

The government says 103,000 refugees and migrants were rescued in 2015 by the Greek coast guard, roughly one-in-10 of the entire number that traveled to the European Union.

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4:15 p.m.

A European Union official says Greece is making "rapid progress" in overcoming delays in building screening centers for migrants and refugees on islands facing Turkey, after involving the armed forces in the effort.

The official, who met with Greek government officials in Athens this week, asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak directly to the news media. He said Friday that armed forces involvement had improved preparations to build screening centers, or "hotspots," on Greek islands and transit camps on the mainland.

Greece is facing mounting European pressure to complete the screening centers on four islands this month, with the project already three months behind schedule.

The official said that the armed forces would provide an additional 8,000 places at two new transit camps being set up near Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki — with 3,000 of those places available this month.

—By Derek Gatopoulos in Athens.

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1:05 p.m.

The interior ministers of France and Germany have stressed Europe must urgently tackle its migration crisis to safeguard the continent's borderless Schengen area, and urged greater information-sharing among police and security services.

Bernard Cazeneuve and Thomas de Maiziere spoke Friday while visiting Greece, which is on the front line of Europe's massive refugee influx. With a lengthy sea border with Turkey and thousands of kilometers of coastline, Greek islands have been the favored way for people fleeing conflict and poverty to reach Europe.

Cazeneuve visited Lesbos, the island that has seen the most arrivals and where one of the "hotspot" registration centers will be set up, on Thursday.

Both ministers stressed the need to reduce migration flows. De Maiziere said Germany was sending 100 police and two coast guard vessels to Greece.

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12:20 p.m.

The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Turkey's prime minister as she tries to reduce the migrant influx to Europe.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday Merkel and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu decided on the trip when they met at this week's aid conference for Syria in London.

Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel's diplomatic efforts to reduce the number of migrants coming to Germany. She has resisted pressure for unilateral measures such as a national cap on refugee numbers.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The European Union pledged 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help improve the condition of refugees in Syria in return.