The Latest: Man held in Hungary said to have extremist ties

AP News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2015 2:16 PM
The Latest: Man held in Hungary said to have extremist ties

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

8:15 p.m.

Hungarian police say a Syrian man has been placed under preliminary arrest suspected of taking part in a riot on the border with Serbia, entering the country illegally and being a member of a group used as a front by Islamic extremists.

Police said Tuesday that the 39-year-old resident of Cyprus identified only as Ahmed H. was detained and questioned on Sept. 19.

Police said the suspect acknowledged being at the Roszke 2 border crossing during clashes in which Hungarian police used water cannons and tear gas to drive back migrants trying to break through a gate on the border.

Police said it had been informed through international law enforcement cooperation that the suspect is a member of Tabligh Jamaat, which it claims is "a cover organization used by terrorist groups to get radical people into certain target countries."

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7:50 p.m.

The United Nations says a delegation on the lookout for torture has completed its inspection of centers in Italy housing thousands of asylum-seekers.

It said the delegation Tuesday presented its "preliminary confidential observations" to the Italian government. No details, including if any violations were found, were given.

Delegation head Hans-Joerg Bannwart was quoted in the U.N. statement as saying it is extremely important during the migrant crisis "to guarantee that all are treated well, independent of their juridical situation."

The delegation visited centers in Rome, Turin and three southern cities: Pozzallo and Trapani, in Sicily, and Bari on the mainland. Delegates spoke privately with migrants and met with government officials, lawmakers and representatives of NGOs. Some 120,000 rescued migrants, many fleeing war or poverty, reached Italy this year.

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7:15 p.m.

A Hungarian high school is looking into reports that some of its students may have spit into food meant for migrants.

The Kurt Foundation High School said Tuesday that if reports were true that some students spit into raw "pogacsa," a Hungarian salty biscuit, the "most serious consequences could be considered." The school said about 150 people, including 60 students, baked 5,540 pogacsa on Friday, setting a Hungarian record.

The biscuits were to have been given to migrants but were sent instead to the Oltalom charity for the homeless because there are few migrants in Hungary now.

Gabor Ivanyi, who runs the charity, told The Associated Press the baking would have destroyed any contamination. He attributed the alleged "prank" to the government's anti-migrant campaign, which has drawn parallels between migrants and terrorists and has accused them of wanting to take Hungarian jobs.

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7 p.m.

Austrian police say the bodies of some of the 71 people found dead in a trafficker's truck last month have been returned to their home countries.

State broadcaster ORF says four bodies have been flown to Iraq and 17 of the victims have been identified so far. Police spokesman Gerald Pangl says Tuesday that relatives are organizing the flights to their homelands.

Pangl says Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been helpful in providing DNA samples needed for identification.

The bodies of those fleeing violence in their homelands were found Aug. 27 on the main highway connecting Austria and Hungary. Coroners say the victims suffocated while in Hungary in the vehicle's air-tight cargo area.

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6:25 p.m.

Croatia has started letting in trucks cross its border with Serbia after Serbia's prime minister gave the European Union a deadline to persuade Croatia to resume all cargo traffic that was halted after a surge of migrants over their mutual frontier.

Aleksandar Vucic said Tuesday that Croatia's closure of the main border crossing for cargo trucks early Monday is "a scandal of international proportions."

Croatian media said that only trucks loaded with foodstuffs would be allowed to cross. Serbian media said that all trucks that have been stranded on the Serbian side of the border are going through.

Landlocked Serbia has said it is losing millions of dollars a day because of the blockade.

Croatia, which has last week closed all but one border crossing with Serbia, wants to pressure Serbia to stop sending the migrants toward Croatian borders and rather channel them further north to Hungary.

More than 30,000 migrants have crossed from Serbia to Croatia since Hungary closed its borders a week ago.

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6:10 p.m.

European Union interior minister meeting in Brussels have approved a plan to relocate 120,000 migrants across Europe.

Some countries were opposed, the Twitter post from the Luxembourg mission to the European Union indicated. It said the decision was adopted by a "large majority" of the EU's 28 member states, without naming the opponents.

Some countries in Eastern Europe have resisted accepting the forced resettlement of refugees on their territory.

Luxembourg currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and presided over Tuesday's meeting of interior and justice ministers in Brussels.

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5:45 p.m.

Greek authorities say they have rescued one of two people who were missing after a boat carrying migrants sank earlier Tuesday in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The coast guard says the search is continuing for the remaining missing person. Eight survivors were picked up earlier off the island of Lesbos. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

More than 300 people were rescued in the eastern Aegean between Monday morning and Tuesday morning in another 13 separate incidents.

More than 260,000 refugees and economic migrants have arrived in Greece so far this year, mostly arriving on the country's eastern islands from nearby Turkey. After being screened, they take ferries to the mainland and then travel north overland to more prosperous northern European Union countries.

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4:45 p.m.

A second train has arrived at Hungary's main border crossing into Austria, and Austrian police say they expect up to 1,500 people on board.

A first trainload that arrived early Tuesday was carrying more than 1,000 people, who then took the usual route into Austria by walking across the border.

The 2,500 migrants now at the Nickelsdorf crossing is significantly less than in previous days. But police say that could change.

Police spokesman Gerald Pangl says it's difficult to make a prognosis of how many more will come because "usually we get the information shortly beforehand."

Austria remains a transit country for most of those arriving, who say they want to go onward to Germany.

Hadi Al Hamsi, 26, from Damascus, says "studying engineering in Germany is my dream."

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3:50 p.m.

Romanian police have questioned five men suspected of being part of an illegal people trafficking ring which smuggled people from the border with Moldova to Romania's western border with Hungary.

Police said the suspects, Romania and Moldovan citizens aged 29 to 52, were caught on Monday as they were transferring five Afghans and one Iranian from one car to another in northeast Romania.

They planned to take the group, which included three children, to Romania's western border with Hungary, which is a member of Europe's visa-free Schengen travel zone unlike Romania.

Police said the suspects were part of an organized smuggling ring that received between 1,000 and 4,000 euros ($1,120 to $4,480) per person.

Three of the suspects were detained and two will be investigated without being detained. The six asylum-seekers were taken to a reception center in the town of Radauti.

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3:30 p.m.

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency says he is concerned Islamic extremists already in the country might succeed in recruiting newly-arrived refugees to their cause, but he has seen no evidence that extremist groups are attempting to infiltrate Europe by hiding among the wave of newcomers.

Hans-Georg Maassen says that the number of ultraconservative Muslim Salafists in Germany has risen by 400 since June to 7,900.

He says "it gives us great concern that Islamists in Germany are using the situations of the refugees for their own purposes under the guise of providing humanitarian help."

He added his agency is "observing these activities very closely, because we see a significant potential for radicalization" — specifically among unaccompanied juveniles.

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3:25 p.m.

Migrants camping out in Athens are pleading for help and shelter from the sudden onset of autumnal weather and torrential rainfall.

"We have nothing. No water, no food, no shelter. We are living in tents, we need help," said Mohamed Saber Nazari, a 20-year-old Afghan camping in Victoria Square. "You see all the families living in the rain, with small children. Something must be organized for us."

A taxi driver working in the area said he understood what the people were going through. A migrant himself, 45-year-old Adrian Mustafa had walked to Greece from Albania more than 20 years ago and has been living in Greece since 1992.

"If you go through what these people are going through, only then will you understand," he said. "They don't want to stay here, but they live under bad conditions. When you look into their eyes, you understand their problems."

Yusuf Abdal Abib, a 22-year-old Afghan living with his family in a small tent in the square, said he was trying to get to Germany but he didn't have any money. "If I find (money) I'll go straight to buy a bus ticket. Only then will I be able to leave," he said. "But now I have nothing."

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3:10 p.m.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders says the only way to halt the flow of migrants pouring into Europe is to end the war in Syria.

Koenders, who visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, said "It is not only a question of border controls and quotas. If the war in Syria does not end, people will keep coming."

Koenders says the European Union, whose leaders are meeting Wednesday in Brussels to try to hammer out a united front in tackling the migrant crisis, should talk to the Lebanese authorities, "because that country knows not only the problems but also the region."

He says the EU should discuss possible solutions to the Syrian conflict with Lebanon and other countries from the Middle East.

The Dutch government has pledged 25 million euros ($28 million) to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

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3 p.m.

The chairman of the European Union's emergency migration talks is optimistic that a deal will be sealed later in the day to share 120,000 refugees in Greece, Italy and perhaps Hungary among other EU countries.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters that a compromise drawn up by his team "should get a consensus. I think it's very balanced."

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary oppose the plan outright while Poland and Latvia are also skeptical. They refuse to have migrant quotas dictated to them from EU headquarters in Brussels.

The EU's top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos, appealed for unity, saying that now "is the moment for everybody to show that we really mean it when we talk about responsibility and solidarity."

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2:45 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Europe can only get a long-term grip on the refugee crisis by tackling what is causing people to flee other nations — not by building fences.

Merkel said the European Union needs to send "signals of order" in the crisis, for example by working with Turkey to secure its external border, but it's also necessary to address broader issues such as the aid shortfall that is prompting Syrians to leave surrounding countries.

Merkel said after meeting her Finnish counterpart: "We are learning in this refugee situation that we are all connected to each other and our lives are affected if terrible things happen elsewhere."

She added: "We will not be able to change that by building fences ... only by fighting the causes."

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2:40 p.m.

Greek authorities say two people are missing after a boat carrying people fleeing their homelands sank in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The coast guard says eight survivors were picked up by a patrol boat off the island of Lesbos on Tuesday. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

In another 13 operations, it says over 300 people were rescued in the eastern Aegean in the last 24 hours.

More than 260,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Greece so far this year, most reaching the country's eastern islands on flimsy rafts or boats from the nearby Turkish coast. After being screened, they take ferries to the mainland and then travel north overland to the more prosperous European Union countries.

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2:30 p.m.

Croatia's prime minister has urged Serbia to "send refugees in other directions too," as police reported that 34,900 migrants have entered the country in less than a week.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said Tuesday that Belgrade should send some of the refugees to Hungary or Romania. He also says the refugee problem should be solved "at its source," in Greece or Turkey, which most Syrian or Iraqi refugees pass through to get to Europe.

Overwhelmed by the influx, Croatia has been transporting migrants to its borders with Slovenia or Hungary — more than 6,000 migrants left that way Monday and Tuesday.

The crisis has strained diplomatic relations in the region, which has become a transit route for migrants bound for Western Europe.

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2:20 p.m.

The sudden onset of fall weather in Greece, with thunderstorms and torrential rain over the past two days, has sent hundreds of migrants who had been camping out in a downtown Athens square scrambling for shelter.

About 100 men, women and children found dry spaces in the Victoria Square metro station Tuesday, while another roughly 400 people, mostly Afghans, remained in the square, huddling in tents or using rubbish bin liners and plastic bags to keep off the worst of the rain. Others took shelter in public telephone booths and under building awnings.

Authorities had bussed many of those sleeping in the square to a sports stadium in a southern Athens suburb during a severe thunderstorm Monday evening, where they can stay for a few days while the bad weather lasts. But many are returning to the square during the day.

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2:05 p.m.

Hungary's foreign minister says political relations with fellow European Union neighbor Croatia are at a "freezing point" and may improve only after parliamentary elections there expected by the end of the year.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says Tuesday it was easier for Croatia to quickly transport migrants to the border with Hungary instead of caring for them themselves. He said bilateral affairs could improve "if there are elections in Croatia and the new government thinks it wants to improve this relationship."

Szijjarto says while Hungary had done everything possible to register 230,000 migrants this year, it had failed in some cases because of the aggressive behavior of some migrants and EU rules making it hard to enforce registration.

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1:45 p.m.

Norway's Justice Minister has asked the country's police to "intensify" border controls to "prevent illegal immigration and combat organized crime."

Anders Anundsen says such controls give "a better overview and control of who is in the country." Anundsen said the move was "not about reintroducing systematic" border controls nor "to cut the right to seek asylum in Norway for displaced people."

He added it was up to the national police to find out how to increase surveillance.

In recent weeks, some 2,000 people have sought asylum in Norway which is not an European Union member, but is part of the Schengen agreement allowing travel without internal border checks in Europe.

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1:10 p.m.

Denmark's intelligence agency doesn't believe Islamic radicals are trying to use the migration flow and Europe's passport-free Schengen travel zone to smuggle "terrorists" into the West.

Finn Borch Andersen, acting head of Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service, says "it is associated with high risks" for individuals to be spotted during a journey across the European continent.

But Borch Andersen acknowledged that there could be "people who sympathize with militant Islamism" among the refugees.

Danish Justice Minister Soeren Pind said that at least 12,400 people had crossed into Denmark via Germany in the past few weeks, adding that about 1,500 people had sought asylum in Denmark. Andersen and Pind were speaking during a joint news conference.

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12:45 p.m.

Serbia's prime minister has given the European Union a deadline to persuade Croatia to resume all cargo traffic that was halted after a surge of migrants over their mutual border or he says that Belgrade will respond with unspecified retaliatory measures.

Aleksandar Vucic said Tuesday that Croatia's closure of the main border crossing for cargo trucks early Monday is "a scandal of international proportions." Vucic gave the European Commission a 2 p.m. (1300 GMT, 9 a.m. EDT) deadline to reopen the traffic, before an emergency government session he is to chair.

Landlocked Serbia says it is losing millions of dollars a day because of the blockade. Croatia has hinted it may close the last remaining border crossing with Serbia for all traffic, including people, if Serbia retaliates.

Croatia, which has last week closed all but one border crossing with Serbia, wants to pressure Serbia to stop sending the migrants toward Croatian borders and rather channel them further north to Hungary.

More than 30,000 migrants have crossed from Serbia to Croatia since Hungary closed its borders a week ago.

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12:20 p.m.

Czech leaders say they are determined to reject the European Union's plan for compulsory quotas to distribute refugees.

Interior ministers from the 28-member EU will try to resolve the dispute on the emergency relocation of 120,000 asylum-seekers at a meeting Tuesday in Brussels. On Wednesday, EU leaders will meet again on the migrant crisis that is overwhelming the continent.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, who has disputed the legality of the quota system, said at a Prague airport before leaving for Brussels that "it's an empty political gesture."

Standing by his side, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka echoed that: "We're certain that the system won't be working."

Sobotka previously said the country is ready to take in thousands but on a voluntary basis.

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12:10 p.m.

Hungarian lawmakers say the European Union's "irresponsible policies" have led to the deaths of migrants whose "unbearable flow" is a burden on the country's economic development.

A resolution approved by legislators from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party and its Christian Democrat allies, says Hungary "cannot allow illegal migrants to endanger the workplaces and social security of the Hungarian people."

The lawmakers said it was irresponsible for European politicians to encourage migrants to risk death for a better life in Europe and called on EU leaders to "return to the road of common sense" and protect Europe and it citizens.

Hungary is building fences on border sections with Serbia, Croatia and Romania to stop the free flow of migrants mostly headed to Germany and other richer EU countries.

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11:35 a.m.

Norway's foreign minister warns that the refugee crisis will continue and could get worse if no political solution is found to end Syria's civil war.

Borge Brende told reporters after meeting his Lebanese counterpart Gibran Bassil in Beirut that Norway has an agreement with the U.N. refugee agency to receive "a substantial amount of refugees in the three coming years — in fact 7 percent of all the refugees that the UNHCR has asked for."

Europe is struggling to deal with the tens of thousands of refugees making the perilous trek to the continent to seek sanctuary there.

Borge warned that the situation will continue as long as there is war in Syria "so the only real solution to this is to find a political solution for Syria."

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11:20 a.m.

A leading economic agency is urging rich countries to invest in integrating and training immigrants to ensure that they contribute to economies instead of draining them.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a report that record numbers of migrant arrivals in Europe are an "emergency situation" and there is "little hope" that it will ease soon.

The OECD called on its 34 member countries, which include the U.S. and most of Europe, to "constantly" adjust immigration policies to take into account shifts such as war in Syria and political collapse in Libya, which have driven many people to seek refuge in Europe.

The group recommends language and other training, and access to health care for migrants to improve their economic contribution.

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11:10 a.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is calling on the European Union to agree this week to take in another 120,000 migrants "for any relocation program to be credible."

The UNHCR says in a statement that 477,906 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year. As EU officials meet in Brussels to discuss the crisis, the agency said a relocation program alone for now "will not be enough to stabilize the situation."

It urged the EU to quickly set up facilities in Greece, which has taken in tens of thousands of people — mainly refugees from Syria arriving through Turkey.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said this may be "the last opportunity for a coherent European response."

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10:40 a.m.

Several hundred asylum-seekers are camping out at the Turkish border with Greece, hoping that a meeting in Brussels will produce an agreement to let them into the European Union.

In the Turkish border city of Edirne, migrants remain at a wrestling arena about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the Greek border.

Hundreds of migrants have made the trek to Edirne in the hope of being allowed to cross into neighboring Greece or Bulgaria and avoid the often-risky journey across the Aegean Sea. Many arrived last week but have been blocked from approaching the border by law enforcement. Hundreds more were stranded in Istanbul after bus companies refused to issue them tickets.

Although many have pledged to remain until the borders are opened, many have given up on a crossing and have been bused back to other cities in Turkey.

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By Mehmet Guzel

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9:35 a.m.

Scuffles have broken out between Croatian police and asylum-seekers after they were barred from entering a newly opened reception center meant to register those seeking sanctuary in Europe.

Troubles started at the camp, when more migrants came to the gates than authorities could handle. Police in the Croatian village of Opatovac pushed people back from the front gate, asked them to sit down and to wait their turn.

Croatia set up a migrant reception operation to try to bring order to the unrelenting chaos that has gripped the country since Sept. 15, when Hungary closed its border with Serbia. That decision diverted waves of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Croatia.

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9:20 a.m.

Austrian police say about 1,000 new arrivals are expected soon at the main border crossing point with Hungary, after nearly 10,000 migrants trekked into the country.

Police spokesman Helmut Marban said Tuesday that most of Monday's arrivals at the Nickelsdorf crossing east of Vienna had already been brought to emergency shelters elsewhere in the country.

He said Hungary is bringing the 1,000 people expected Tuesday to its side of the border by train.

From there, the migrants usually walk into Austria.