The Latest: EU to assess economic impact of migrant crisis

AP News
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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 2:34 PM
The Latest: EU to assess economic impact of migrant crisis

VIENNA (AP) — The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local (CET):

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8:30 p.m.

The European Union will assess the economic costs of the refugee crisis to see whether the nations caught up in it need more lenient budget rules.

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said Friday the EU's executive Commission will "analyze whether the refugee crisis can be considered an extraordinary circumstance" under rules the bloc has to ensure sound public finances.

Gramegna also said the European Investment Bank also stands ready to quickly help countries, regions and cities that need financial help to deal with the arrival of migrants.

Greece, Italy and Hungary are among the EU nations hardest hit by the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants this year.

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5:55 p.m.

A leading Human Rights Watch official has criticized Hungary's handling of asylum seekers, accusing police of treating people like animals who have food thrown at them.

"Hungary continues to be the most difficult part of the journey that Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees are trying to make to Europe," Peter Bouckaert of the New York-based rights group told The Associated Press at Budapest's migrant-clogged Keleti train station.

"They get blocked at the border. Police take them to holding centers where they live in horrible conditions. They are kept like animals. They get very little food. The food gets thrown at them sometimes, instead of distributed," he said.

Bouckaert said Human Rights Watch workers had documented cases of people with serious medical problems being neglected in the migrant camps, including a 1-month-old vomiting baby with a fever, a man with a heart attack and a man who suffered seizures.

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5:25 p.m.

A Romanian official is denying suggestions that Romania will take in refugees in exchange for membership in the European Union's Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

Corneliu Calota, a spokesman for Prime Minister Victor Ponta, said Romania would not "condition accepting migrants' quotas to Schengen membership."

Ponta said on his Facebook page that the countries asking Romania to take refugees were the ones that had blocked Romania's entry to Schengen.

Calota told The Associated Press on Friday that Ponta believes "it would be fair" for Romania and Bulgaria to be admitted to Schengen, starting with their airports.

President Klaus Iohannis says Romania can take about 1,785 migrants, but opposes the European Commission's call for it to take 6,351 migrants.

Several EU members have cited concerns about corruption and the legal systems in Romania.

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4:50 p.m.

Showing their determination, a trickle of migrants marching toward Vienna swelled into a torrent after Austria cut the number of trains serving the border.

Hungarian police spokesman Helmut Marban said a "group dynamic" started Friday, with a few people beginning to walk toward Vienna from the border, inspiring thousands to join them on the 40-mile (60 kilometer) trek.

Police briefly closed the A4 expressway to vehicles because of the potential dangers of so many migrants.

The trek petered out a few hours after it began, with police and emergency crews persuading those wanting to push on to the Austrian capital that there would be enough buses for them eventually.

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4:35 p.m.

Finland says it will take part in a new European Union scheme to take care of 120,000 refugees arriving in Italy, Greece and Hungary and will accept 2,400 of them.

Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said Friday that Finland would do this "on a voluntary basis" rather than be legally obliged to do so. Speaking at an EU finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Stubb said "we don't think this is about decision-making or institutions. It's about helping others."

He said the migrant crisis "is a defining moment of European integration and in many ways a much more critical issue than we've had with the euro crisis."

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary oppose the migrant sharing plan.

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4:15 p.m.

Germany's defense minister says the military has put some 4,000 soldiers on call this weekend in case they're needed to help deal with the influx of migrants.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the weekly Der Spiegel that "the country can count on the Bundeswehr's support." She indicated there's room to increase the number of soldiers available if needed.

The Germany military has already made accommodations available for 14,500 migrants at barracks and other facilities in Germany.

Soldiers also have helped with transport and tents and some military officials have been sent to help the national migration authority process the rise in asylum cases.

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2:45 p.m.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has heard a unanimous and emphatic "no" from his counterparts from four Central European nations to his call for introducing mandatory quotas for accepting migrants.

Steinmeier said 40,000 migrants are expected to arrive in Germany over the coming weekend and 800,000 this year.

But the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia rejected the European Union's latest plan to relocate 160,000 migrants across the 28-nation bloc.

Steinmeier left their joint news conference in Prague prematurely on Friday, allegedly due to his busy schedule.

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2:20 p.m.

The foreign ministers of four Central European countries have rejected a European Union plan for introducing mandatory quotas for accepting migrants in their meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, who hosted Friday's meeting, told reporters: "We need to have control over how many we are capable of accepting."

Steinmeier argued that the migrant crisis is "possibly the biggest challenge for the European Union in its history. And it's impossible for one country to deal with such a challenge."

Germany, which accepts the most migrants of any EU nation, is pressing for the quotas.

But Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said: "We have a different view," and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the top goal should be to gain control over the EU's external borders.

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1:45 p.m.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has ordered his country's border with Serbia to be turned into a razor-tipped fortress, says the solution to the European Union migration crisis lies in Greece.

"We have to take care of the problem where it exists," Orban told a Budapest news conference. "If Greece is not capable of protecting its borders . we need to mobilize European forces to the Greek borders so that they can achieve the goals of European law instead of the Greek authorities. That is one of the foremost goals."

Under EU asylum rules, those seeking refugee protection should apply in the first EU country they enter. Greece is the first EU country on the migration route that starts in Turkey and runs through the Balkans and Hungary.

But other EU nations in recent years have stopped deporting people back to Greece, citing its overwhelmed, dysfunctional asylum system. Germany recently decided to stop deporting people back to Hungary for similar reasons.

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1:30 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says it's deploying hundreds of prefabricated homes to central and southeastern Europe to temporarily house some of the Syrian refugees who are flooding into the continent.

Spokesman William Spindler says UNHCR is stepping up its operations in Europe amid what it estimates is an influx of over 380,000 people across the Mediterranean so far this year. The International Organization for Migration has put the figure at more than 432,000.

Spindler said Friday that "trucks are on the way" after the Geneva-based agency won government approval to send 300 prefabricated homes to provide overnight, temporary housing to refugees awaiting registration by authorities.

He said UNHCR is also sending enough supplies and blankets for 95,000 people in four countries among the most affected: Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.

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1:20 p.m.

The foreign ministers of four Central European countries say they rejected an EU plan for mandatory quotas for accepting asylum-seekers when they met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, who hosted the meeting, said "We need to have control over how many (migrants) we are capable of accepting."

Germany, which receives by far the most asylum applications, demands compulsory sharing of refugees among EU countries.

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said "We have a different view" of the problem.

"The first and most important task is to gain control over the outer border of the European Union," Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto argued.

His country is building a fence on its border with Serbia in an effort to stop the waves of the migrants.

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1:15 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says he is more hopeful now that the European Union can deal with the refugee crisis after contacts with EU member states in recent days.

Speaking during a visit to Cyrpus Friday, Tusk said an upcoming emergency meeting of EU home affairs and justice ministers on Monday needs to produce "a concrete positive sign of solidarity and unity."

If no deal is found, he said he would have to call an emergency EU Council meeting in September to tackle the crisis.

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1:10 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister says the European Union needs to go beyond an already-contentious proposal to redistribute 160,000 migrants who are already in Europe and agree on a "fair distribution mechanism" for those who are still on their way.

Germany expects 800,000 migrants to arrive this year and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that the European Commission's proposal to redistribute refugees will send more to Germany, not take any off its hands. He spoke at a meeting Friday with his counterparts from several eastern European countries, who are resisting quotas.

Steinmeier added that European countries need to think about "joint European communication" in countries where migrants are coming from to stop rumors arising that "in Europe, wherever it may be, everyone either has a right to asylum or a guaranteed job."

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1 p.m.

Denmark says it won't accept any of the 160,000 refugees that the European Union wants to relocate to other countries from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Like Britain and Ireland, Denmark is not legally bound to take part in EU plans to spread refugees more evenly across the bloc and Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg on Friday made clear that Denmark has no intention of joining voluntarily.

Stoejberg told reporters that "we won't be part of the distribution of the 160,000 asylum-seekers" and that Denmark already is receiving a large number of asylum-seekers.

Almost 15,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark last year. Neighboring Sweden, whose population is nearly twice as large, took in more than 80,000.

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12:30 p.m.

A Hungarian camerawoman caught on video kicking and tripping migrants near the Serbian border has offered a qualified apology for her behavior.

Petra Laszlo says in the letter published in the daily Magyar Nemzet newspaper that she was "sincerely sorry for what happened," but addedL "I was scared as they streamed toward me, and then something snapped inside me."

The 40-year-old was fired by the right-wing N1TV online channel after footage of her kicking and tripping migrants Tuesday near the village of Roszke went viral on social media.

Police questioned Laszlo on suspicion of disorderly conduct Thursday, released her without charge, and say the investigation is continuing.

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12:30 p.m.

Bavarian authorities say that more than 40,000 asylum-seekers have arrived at the Munich train station in a six-day span.

Authorities said Friday that from Sept. 5 through Sept. 10, 40,680 refugees and migrants arrived at the station, primarily from Hungary through Austria.

After being registered and given food, water and a medical checkup, the people are generally then sent by train or bus to other parts of the country to be put into temporary shelters as they apply for asylum.

Through Sept. 8 Germany has seen some 450,000 migrants enter the country and is expecting at least 800,000 this year.

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12:15 p.m.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, on a rare visit to London to open a major exhibition of his work, says he has been impressed by the German government's welcoming attitude to refugees and suggested the British government might do more to help.

The artist, who has frequently used his work to criticize injustice in China, said Friday he feels "very proud" of the German response. He said the British people are also very compassionate in their response but that the British government should extend more help.

Prime Minister David Cameron said this week Britain is ready to welcome some 20,000 over the next five years.

Ai said he has some artworks in preparation that will address the refugee crisis.

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11:30 a.m.

The governor of Greece's northern Aegean region says authorities have managed to register 20,000 refugees and migrants who had been on the island of Lesbos in the space of three days, significantly easing the overcrowding on the island.

Regional governor Christiana Kalogirou told private Skai television Friday that the number of refugees and migrants on the island had reached about 30,000. Greece's caretaker government, appointed about two weeks ago to lead the country to Sept. 20 early elections, sent extra staff to speed up registration and chartered two extra ferries to help move people to the mainland.

More than 250,000 people have reached Greece so far this year, the vast majority arriving on islands from the nearby Turkish coast. About half of all those who arrive do so on Lesbos. Few, if any, want to remain in financially stricken Greece.

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11:20 a.m.

EU diplomats say the bloc's interior ministers will not act on Monday to put into action a new plan to share 120,000 refugees now in overburdened Greece, Italy and Hungary.

A diplomat with the EU's Luxembourg presidency said Friday that "we are hopeful for a formal adoption on Oct. 8" at a meeting in Luxembourg.

The diplomats requested anonymity because they are not permitted to speak publicly about proceedings.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled the plan on Wednesday and called for it to be adopted at the emergency meeting.

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By Associated Press Writer Lorne Cook

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11 a.m.

Austrian Federal Railways says train service has been suspended between the main border crossing point to Hungary and Vienna. That appears to have prompted thousands of asylum-seekers to begin trekking on foot toward the Austrian capital.

The railways press department says the move was prompted due to lack of capacity to deal with the thousands of people at the Nickelsdorf crossing wanting to board trains daily to the Austrian capital. Once in Vienna, most have traveled on to Germany and other Western EU nations.

Railway officials are meeting Friday to try to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, thousands of migrants and refugees are trying to cover the 60 kilometers (40 miles) to Vienna on foot.

Austrian police official Hans Peter Doskozil says 7,500 people crossed into Austria at Nickelsdorf on Thursday.

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11 a.m.

A poll in Germany finds that 66 percent of respondents believe the German and Austrian leaders were right to allow in asylum-seekers who were stuck in Hungary, and 62 percent think Germany can cope with the influx of arrivals from countries in crisis.

The telephone poll of 1,352 people was conducted by the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen agency for ZDF television between Tuesday and Thursday, days after thousands of people started arriving from Hungary.

Eighty-five percent of those polled said they believe the decision to let in the refugees will lead to still more setting off for Germany. And 57 percent said Germany is doing the right amount to help refugees, while 21 percent thought it is doing too little.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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9:45 a.m.

Austrian police have shut down sections of the roadway between Vienna and the Hungarian border as asylum-seekers have formed a long line and are walking toward the capital.

Police spokesman Gerhard Koller says the people — estimated by reporters to number more than 1,000 — pushed through police cordons to being their 60-kilometer (40-mile) trek early Friday.

It was unclear what prompted the development. Trains have been taking migrants and refugees from the Nickelsdorf border point to Vienna for days, and Koller said more trains were planned.

Thousands of people — most of them migrants who have traveled the West Balkans route from Greece — have been arriving at Vienna train stations daily. Most have traveled on to Germany and other West European EU nations.