The Latest: Croatia says 27,000 migrants have entered

AP News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2015 12:33 PM
The Latest: Croatia says 27,000 migrants have entered

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

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6:30 p.m.

Croatian police say about 27,000 migrants have entered the country since the surge started several days ago.

Police said Sunday that they are still expecting many more migrants to arrive from Serbia in the coming days. They say authorities are setting up tents for migrants to find shelter from rain and cold.

Migrants hoping to reach Western Europe started going through Croatia last Wednesday after Hungary pushed them away from its border with Serbia.

On Friday, Croatia has said it was overwhelmed by the influx and has been sending the migrants to neighboring Slovenia and Hungary. Police say 1,600 migrants have left for Hungary on Sunday and the flow will continue.

Hungary has started building a fence on the border with Croatia after it had built one along the frontier with Serbia.

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5:15 p.m.

About 8,000 asylum seekers have gathered in the Austrian border town of Nickelsdorf, most of them crossing over from Hungary on Sunday.

They all lined up in a town square waiting for buses to relocate them. Austrian soldiers formed a barrier around them while local officials struggled to find accommodation for them because many camps were already overcrowded.

Mahat, a lab technician from Damascus, was among those waiting.

"We came here only to get a new life," said Mahat, who didn't want to give his last name fearing repercussions by Syria's government.

The 47-year-old said he didn't care where in Europe he would end up as long as he could live in peace and find a job.

The Austrian news agency APA reported that about 15,000 migrants were expected to cross into Austria from Hungary via Nickelsdorf this weekend.

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4:25 p.m.

Slovenia's government says Prime Minister Miro Cerar has urged a swift all-EU response to the migrant crisis in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Cerar's office says he spoke with Merkel on the phone Sunday. Cerar has said that Slovenia has the situation with migrants coming in the country from Croatia under control, but that the EU must come up with an effective solution.

The statement says Cerar has asked for "basic guidelines" to be hammered out at EU meetings in the coming days.

Authorities say about 2,500 refugees have come to Slovenia from Croatia, which said last week it was overwhelmed and must send migrants on to other countries. Migrants fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan or other troubled nations, want to reach Western Europe.

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2:50 p.m.

German federal police say they are expecting two special trains from Austria to bring migrants across the border into Germany via the southeastern town of Freilassing.

The trains will be carrying some 500 migrants each and are expected to arrive Sunday evening.

Another five special trains with 500 people each on board will arrive in Freilassing from Austria on Monday.

Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have streamed into Austria in recent days, after arriving via Croatia and Hungary.

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2:30 p.m.

Police say an arson attack on a future asylum shelter for up to 400 people in Wertheim in southern Germany destroyed the building so badly that it can no longer be used for the migrants.

The gym had already been equipped with more than 300 beds, but the migrants had not yet moved in when the building was attacked early Sunday. It was not clear who was behind the attack.

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2:20 p.m.

Soldiers, police and volunteers are working together to establish order on the Austrian border as about 7,000 people crowd the crossing at Nickelsdorf, near Vienna.

A long line of people fleeing conflict and poverty formed on the empty truck parking lot Sunday as recent arrivals from Hungary waited for buses to take them to temporary shelters across Austria, or to the nearby railway station, where two specially organized trains had already left for Vienna.

Dozens of soldiers, some wearing vests identifying them as military police lined up beside them, arms crossed to keep them in line, as they moved toward the waiting vehicles.

Cabbies were also doing business with migrants who had enough money for the taxi fare to Vienna.

Red cross workers and volunteers set up impromptu feeding stations, handing out sandwiches and noodles.

Not far from the scene, more people arrived by foot, crossing into Austria after buses on the Hungarian side set them out at Hegyeshalom. They appeared tired but happy.

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1:35 p.m.

Coast guard officials say 13 migrants have died after their boat collided with a ferry off the Turkish coast.

Turkey's coast guard agency said in a statement to its website that it intervened after being alerted that a commercial vessel hit a migrant boat off the western port city of Canakkale and that bodies were in the water.

An official at the agency says that eight people had been rescued following Sunday's incident. He said search-and-rescue operations were ongoing.

Further details about the crash were not immediately available.

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1:10 p.m.

Hungary has reopened its main border crossing with Serbia after sealing it off five days earlier to prevent migrants from entering its territory.

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said the crossing on the M5 highway between Roszke, Hungary, and Horgos, Serbia, was reopened Sunday for vehicles, which will be checked.

The crossing is near the site of clashes on Wednesday between baton-wielding Hungarian riot police and migrants and the reopening follows negotiations with Pinter's Serbian counterpart, Nebojsa Stefanovic.

Relations between Hungary and Serbia have been complicated by Hungary's decision to construct a razor-wire fence along its 175-kilometer (110-miile) border with Serbia to keep migrants out.

Pinter indicated that some of those tensions were easing, saying: "We determined how to handle this extraordinary situation together and tried to find a joint solution."

The border closure had hampered trade in the region.

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12:40 p.m.

While Hungary has repelled migrants at its southern border with Serbia with a razor-wire fence, those arriving from Croatia on its western border are instead greeted with buses and trains that escort them to Austria.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told news portal index.hu on Sunday that migrants entering from Croatia are receiving the favorable treatment for now because Hungary doesn't yet have a fence completed along its frontier with Croatia, whereas the fence with Serbia is complete.

Szijjarto explained that without a fence, expelling migrants back into Croatia would create chaos.

The result is that more than 16,000 migrants have crossed into Hungary from Croatia since Friday, whereas the Serb side of the border has been all but emptied of migrants.

It is not clear when the fence with Croatia will be completed.

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11:40 a.m.

Austria says 11,000 migrants crossed into the country from Hungary in the 24-hour period that ended on midnight Saturday.

The country's interior ministry says that another 7,000 are expected Sunday at the main Nickelsdorf crossing, east of Vienna.

Ministry officials are meeting with charity organizations to try and find temporary shelter for the new arrivals, who are fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

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9:20 a.m.

After lashing out against Croatian officials, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is now trading barbs with his Romanian counterpart over a razor-wire border fence that Hungary is building between the two countries to keep out migrants.

Hungary's erection of fences is deeply straining its ties with neighboring countries, who feel the problem of the huge flow of migrants is being unfairly pushed onto them. After completing a fence along the border with Serbia, Hungary is now building fences along its borders with Croatia and Romania.

Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu on Saturday called the border closure an "autistic and unacceptable act" that violated the spirit of the European Union.

On Sunday, Szijjarto said, "We would expect more modesty from a foreign minister whose prime minister is currently facing trial." That was a reference to corruption charges filed recently against Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Szijjarto added: "We are a state that is more than 1,000 years old that throughout its history has had to defend not only itself, but Europe as well many times. That's the way it's going to be now, whether the Romanian foreign minister likes it or not."

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry has called in the Romanian ambassador for a consultation on Monday.

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8:45 a.m.

A boat with 46 migrants or refugees has sunk in Greece and the coast guard says it is searching for 26 missing off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

The coast guard says a Lithuanian helicopter from the European border patrol agency Frontex spotted people in the sea off the southeastern coast of Lesbos early Sunday.

Two coast guard vessels headed to the area and have rescued 20 people. The survivors say there were a total of 46 people on board.

No information is immediately available on their nationalities.

Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, mostly Syrians and Afghans fleeing conflict at home, have arrived in Greece from the nearby Turkish coast so far this year.

— Elena Becatoros, Athens, Greece