The Latest: Few Athenians turn up in support of migrants

AP News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2015 5:28 PM
The Latest: Few Athenians turn up in support of migrants

ATHENS, Greece (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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11:00 p.m.

A rally and march in solidarity with migrants in Athens, Greece has only drawn about 500 people.

Attendees at Saturday night's rally carried banners declaring "Refugees Welcome" and "Deportation for Racists.

The protesters peacefully marched a block to the European Union offices before dispersing.

Over 300,000 migrants have crossed into Greece so far this year straining the country's inadequate resources and causing resentment among inhabitants of Greek islands close to Turkey, where the migrants come ashore.

Polls show the far-right, anti-migrant Golden Dawn party is third place, a week ahead of a snap national election. There are fears the migrant issue could boost its support past the 10-percent mark.

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9:40 p.m.

A demonstration and concert at Budapest's Keleti train station meant to express solidarity with migrants drew mostly people angry about Prime Minister Viktor Orban's treatment of migrants.

Activists gathered signatures for a referendum aimed at repealing government policies, while people held signs like "Not in my name" or "Refugee lives are a matter of solidarity, not a political campaign."

Musicians performed everything from jazz to songs from the Csango culture, a Hungarian-speaking minority living in Romania, for a few hundred people.

Most of the migrants remained in a sunken plaza at the train station instead of going to the concert upstairs.

Abdulhakim Issa, a 15-year-old from Syria, welcomed the concert but explained that he was preparing to get on the next train out of Budapest to reach his brother in Germany.

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8 p.m.

Hungary has lashed back at the Austrian chancellor's comparison of Hungary's treatment of migrants with the fate of Jews during the Holocaust.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Chancellor Werner Faymann's comments published Saturday were "totally unworthy of any leading 21st-century European politician."

Szijjarto said Hungary was complying with international standards for treating migrants and that Faymann's "slanderous" statements were meant to "cover his own inadequacy or for domestic political gains."

Hungary also summoned the Austrian ambassador in Budapest to object to the comments.

Szijjarto repeated that Hungary considers the vast majority arriving not as refugees but as economic migrants.

Over 180,000 people have entered Hungary this year, over four times more than last year.

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6:15 p.m.

Each goal scored in Switzerland's top soccer league matches this weekend will earn 500 Swiss francs ($513) for a charity working with refugees.

The Swiss Football League says it pledged the money to Swiss Solidarity from 10 matches in the top two divisions. It hopes the money will help create "a more peaceful life to all people confronted by war."

League CEO Claudius Schaefer says players from 50 countries represented its teams last season. He says "our clubs know every day the true meaning of integration and solidarity."

Swiss Solidarity, a foundation of state broadcasters, says it has raised 23 million Swiss francs ($23.6 million) for its Syria campaign.

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5:50 p.m.

Premier League clubs in England are helping Save the Children raise funds for refugees this weekend, with Arsenal donating one pound ($1.50) from each ticket sold.

The appeal is being promoted at six games on Saturday, with matches featuring banners of support and messages on big screens encouraging fans to donate.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, says that soccer "has an incredible ability to bring people together." He added he was "proud that Arsenal is leading the way in showing that Britain cares."

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5:30 p.m.

France has suspended its honorary consul in the Turkish seaside town of Bodrum after it was revealed that her maritime shop sells rubber rafts to migrants.

The move was prompted by a TV report from Bodrum, a jumping-off point for migrants heading by sea to Greece.

France 2 TV used hidden camera to talk with Francoise Olcay in her store — which has a French flag outside and a plaque naming it as a "consular agency of France."

Olcay said she was aware that migrants are among the customers for such rafts, which are ill-equipped for a sea voyage. But she said stopping sales would "change absolutely nothing."

Honorary consuls aren't paid and often have local businesses.

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5:15 p.m.

Migrant children have been applauded by 75,000 soccer fans as they accompanied Bayern Munich players onto the field in Munich.

The tribute Saturday took place before a Bundesliga game with Augsburg.

The players held hands with a migrant child on one side and a German child on the other for what the club says was "a symbol for the integration of refugees."

Some of the kids waved shyly to the crowd while others simply soaked it all in — the culmination of long treks across Europe that were fraught with danger, hunger and fear.

Bayern, like many German clubs, has offered support to people fleeing war and poverty. The club is donating 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to refugee projects and arranging a training camp to give youths German lessons, meals and soccer equipment.

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5 p.m.

Up to 30,000 people have gathered outside the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen and are chanting in English "Say it loud and say it clear: Refugees are welcome here!"

The rally Saturday was part of a European-wide movement to welcome the tens of thousands fleeing violence in their home countries.

Moroccan-born Mohammed Harra told Denmark's Politiken newspaper "I am here to support refugees who have been driven out of their houses because of what has happened in Syria, with the bombings and the killings."

Europe this summer is facing an enormous wave of people, many from Syria, who are fleeing violence in their home nations.

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4:45 p.m.

The Hungarian camerawoman caught on video kicking and tripping migrants running from police has issued a new apology after her initial one was criticized for not being remorseful enough.

Petra Laszlo said Saturday in a message on the website of the Magyar Nemzet newspaper that she found it hard to express her exact feelings because her life was now "crumbling into ruins."

Using all capital letters, Laszlo, 40, then said "I SINCERELY APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO THOSE AFFECTED."

Hungarian media say she and her family have now gone into hiding. Laszlo was dismissed Tuesday by N1TV, an Internet-based channel closely associated with Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, hours after her actions.

The channel's website has been down since Thursday after being disabled by "Fallaga Team," an Islamist hacker group from Tunisia.

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4 p.m.

Some 600 French mayors and many humanitarian groups have gathered in Paris to address the question of migrant housing.

The session Saturday with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve aims to lay the groundwork for France to take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years.

Even before the refugee crisis, France had a housing crisis for asylum seekers, with some left to fend for themselves on the streets.

Mayors attended of their own volition. Some have already said they want only Christian refugees — a notion officially frowned on. The only major French party not at the session was the far-right National Front, which is fundamentally opposed to France taking in more refugees.

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3:50 p.m.

It appears that few asylum seekers want to stay in Denmark.

Danish police say 225 people crossed the border from Germany into Denmark between Friday and Saturday, and only three applied for asylum in Denmark. The rest headed north, likely to Sweden, Norway or Finland.

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3:30 p.m.

The head of Sweden's immigration agency says the photograph of the young Syrian boy who drown on a beach in Turkey while trying to get to Europe "has had an impact and changed the image" of migrants.

The agency, Migrationsverket, expects 90,000 people will seek shelter in Sweden this year, a country of 10 million that took in more than 80,000 asylum seekers last year.

Agency chief Anders Danielsson told Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper that "there is a crisis, but not for us. It is a crisis for those fleeing."

The Scandinavian country ranks among the top five European Union countries where refugees go, and is second after Germany for asylum applications this year.

On Friday night, hundreds of migrants were in Malmo's central train station.

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3 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says allowing in the tens of thousands of migrants who had piled up in Hungary was the right decision, fending off criticism from a conservative ally.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union — the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's own conservative Christian Democrats — was quoted as telling the weekly Der Spiegel that the decision was "a mistake which will occupy us for a long time." Seehofer says he sees "no possibility of getting the cap back on the bottle."

Merkel said Saturday "we made a decision last week in an emergency situation." She added: "I am convinced that it was right," the dpa news agency reported.

Merkel didn't mention Seehofer directly. She said Germany would do justice to its responsibility to help those who need protection.

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2:45 p.m.

A German official says 3,600 migrants arrived in Munich on Saturday morning and a total of 10,000 or more are expected in the course of the day.

Simone Hilgers, a spokeswoman for the Upper Bavaria region's government, said that compares with the 5,800 who came Friday. At least two special trains were expected to take some of the migrants on to other parts of Germany.

Munich is running short of room to accommodate the arrivals. The northern state of Lower Saxony said it now plans to have trains from Austria run to the town of Bad Fallingbostel, and then distribute the migrants across northern Germany.

Germany takes in more asylum seekers than any other country in Europe — and expects to handle at least 800,000 this year.

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1:40 p.m.

Greece's coast guard says it is searching the eastern Aegean Sea for five people — four children and a 20-year-old — who are missing when two smugglers' boats capsized en route from Turkey to the islands of Samos and Lesbos.

The coast guard said 56 others aboard the two craft were rescued Saturday.

Greek authorities continue to expedite the flow of people from the eastern island of Lesbos, where most asylum seekers reach by sea from nearby Turkey. A ferry carrying 2,493 migrants docked Saturday at the port of Piraeus, southwest of Athens, with more ferries expected later.

Those arriving at Piraeus quickly make their way by bus or train to Greece's northern border with non-EU member Macedonia. Police say about 3,500 crossed that border by foot from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.

Greek police also found the body of a Syrian man who disappeared earlier this week near the border. He was found, apparently drowned, in the Vardar River.

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12:30 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is encouraging refugee women arriving in Germany to learn the language and make new contacts.

Merkel noted in her weekly video message Saturday that women arriving in Europe "have often experienced terrible things and are also traumatized."

She said that beyond attempts to deal with that, "I can only advise women to learn the language." She said they should consider learning with their children, who may speak better German as a result of going to school — "(but) they shouldn't be scared off by that."

Merkel said she also advises women "simply to seek contacts — not to curl up and just live and work in the community they know, but try to get out too."

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11:40 a.m.

Germany's vice chancellor is renewing calls for a European solution to the migrant crisis.

Sigmar Gabriel said in the central city of Hildesheim Saturday that "Germany sees itself in a situation where we are reaching limits," the news agency dpa reported. He added that "the speed is almost more problematic than the number."

Some 450,000 migrants have arrived in Germany this year, the pace picked up in the past week. The country is expecting at least 800,000 this year, the most in Europe.

Gabriel said it's important to help the region around Syria and to talk to Turkey, where migrants set off in boats for EU member Greece, about how to slow down the flow.

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10:50 a.m.

Austria's leader is attacking his Hungarian counterpart's hard-line policies in the migrant crisis, arguing that it's irresponsible to say all are coming for economic reasons.

Austria and Germany are at odds with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who rejects proposed Europe-wide quotas for migrants and has drawn criticism for his management of those streaming through Hungary.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told German weekly Der Spiegel that Austria, Germany and Sweden recognize the migrants include war refugees and stand by the right to asylum.

He said "Orban is acting irresponsibly when he says everyone is an economic refugee."

Faymann was quoted as saying: "Putting refugees on trains in the belief that they are going somewhere totally different awakens memories of our continent's darkest time" — an allusion to the Nazi Holocaust.

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10:30 a.m.

Saudi Arabia says it has taken in about 2.5 million Syrians since fighting began in the country, its first official response to suggestions that oil-rich Gulf states should do more to address the plight of Syrian refugees.

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted an unidentified official source at the Ministry of Foreign Ministry late Friday saying the kingdom does not consider those taken in as refugees and does not house them in camps "order to ensure their dignity and safety."

It says they are free to move around the country and that several hundreds of thousands who have chosen to say have been granted residency status, giving them rights to jobs, schools and free medical care.

The report says the kingdom did not previously discuss the matter because it "did not wish to boast about its efforts or attempt to gain media coverage."

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10:30 a.m.

A senior German official says people are leaving the region around Syria at a "breathtaking" rate, but is indicating that it isn't clear whether the influx to Germany will reach 40,000 this weekend.

Germany's foreign minister said Friday that 40,000 migrants were expected in Germany over the weekend. However Aydan Ozoguz, a government official responsible for immigrant issues, told rbb-Inforadio Saturday: "We'll have to see whether this figure really comes true."

Ozoguz said a lot of people are on the move, and "the pace at which people are fleeing from the region is breathtaking." She said it was "extremely cynical" of Hungary's prime minister to say people are safe in neighboring countries.

Federal police in Munich, the main point of arrival in Germany, said 1,650 people arrived there Saturday morning.

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9:40 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister is proposing that European Union countries give 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in aid to Syria's neighbors to help stem the flow of refugees from camps there.

Viktor Orban, who has drawn criticism for his hard line on migrants reaching Europe, argued that people coming to Europe from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey in future should return because "they were safe there."

Saturday's edition of the German daily Bild quoted him as saying: "There is no fundamental right to a better life, only a right to safety and human dignity."

Orban suggested every EU country pay 1 percent extra into the EU budget while reducing other spending. He said that would generate 3 billion euros for aid, which could be increased "until the stream of refugees dries up."