The Latest: Migrants quit rocks on the Italian-French border

AP News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2015 12:56 PM
The Latest: Migrants quit rocks on the Italian-French border

PARIS (AP) — The latest developments as European nations struggle to cope with tens of thousands of people trekking across the continent to find safety. All times local:

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6:55 p.m.

Dozens of migrants have left rocks along the Italian coastline near the French border where they fled after their tent camp was raided by Italian police.

Police dismantled the 3-month-old camp Wednesday morning. The migrants had been camped out in Italy hoping to travel onward via France since June, but French border police would not permit their passage.

The news agency ANSA said the local bishop helped persuade the migrants and a group of volunteers who have been helping them to leave the rocky coastline, where removing them by force would have been difficult.

Ventimiglia Mayor Enrico Ioculano told Sky TG24 that law enforcement would determine where to take them. A bus was waiting nearby.

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5:30 p.m.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says a joint drill by the country's police and military to be ready to deal with a possible increased numbers of migrants has produced "satisfactory results."

The one-day drill was conducted along the country's border with Austria and included 500 police officers and 300 service members.

Thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty have been using the Balkan states and Hungary every day on their way to Germany and other Western states, but they are traveling through the Czech Republic in much smaller numbers.

Czech police boosted their presence on the Austrian-Czech border in response to Germany's decision to restore border controls, but the Czechs haven't done the same yet.

Officials also say the Czech military is planning to deploy up to 25 soldiers in Hungary at the request of the Hungarian government to help protect the border of the Schengen zone, and the Czech police are ready to do the same.

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3:50 p.m.

Finland has suddenly and unexpectedly emerged as a top destination for Iraqis who are crossing the Mediterranean to Europe along with hundreds of thousands of others fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

Some 11,900 Iraqis have applied for asylum in Finland this year, accounting for 70 percent of all claims. More than 8,600 arrived in September alone.

"For me, this is where I want to be," said Firas Afandi a 48-year-old Iraqi electrical engineer said outside a reception center for asylum-seekers in Helsinki. "People here are civilized, calm and it's quiet."

Finnish officials say the sudden increase seems to be partly driven by online rumors about quick handling of asylum applications, generous benefits and an abundance of jobs. In reality, Finland's reception for asylum-seekers differs little from other EU countries, and its economy has entered its fourth year of recession.

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3:40 p.m.

How long does it take to swim from Turkey to Greece?

Hussam Jaban, a 21-year-old English literature student from Syria, said it took about four hours to swim from the small Turkish resort of Kas to the eastern Greek island of Castellorizo.

Jaban told The Associated Press he swam with 12 other people "and we all made it." He said the group "had a small inflatable boat for a three-year-old child and we pushed it along."

Speaking Wednesday as he crossed into Macedonia, Jaban said he swam to avoid paying smugglers and keep enough money for the rest of the long journey through Europe to seek safety.

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3:05 p.m.

Slovakia's prime minister says his government has formally approved challenging a European Union decision to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers among the bloc's 28 nations.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico declined to give further details about the lawsuit Wednesday.

After the refugee-sharing move was approved by EU ministers last week, Fico said Slovakia was not ready to accept the plan and was planning a legal complaint against it at an EU court in Luxembourg.

Slovakia voted against the plan along with the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary.

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1:15 p.m.

Relief agencies have set up a tent city at Greece's border with Macedonia to cope with the growing number of migrants and refugees trying to reach central Europe.

The facilities, being set up over the past week, reached a capacity of 1,000 Wednesday outside the Greek border town of Idomeni, one of the busiest bottlenecks in the country.

Police said about 4,500 people had arrived at Idomeni in the past 24 hours, most by bus from Athens.

The uneven arrival of refugees — most fleeing Syria's civil war — has forced many to spend the night at the border.

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12:35 p.m.

A Danish court has jailed a 25-year-old stateless Palestinian for three weeks who is suspected of attempted murder for stabbing a policeman in Denmark's largest asylum center.

Police spokesman Henrik Suhr says in a statement that police found some evidence the suspect may have sympathies for Islamic extremists in Syria, but added the man also "may be mentally unstable." He said the man was about to be deported.

No further details emerged from Wednesday's custody hearing held behind closed doors. The policeman was seriously injured Tuesday at Center Sandholm, north of Copenhagen.

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12:20 p.m.

Italy's top security official says fewer migrants are arriving in Italy this year, contrary to European trends.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told the Schengen Commission on Wednesday that 130,577 asylum-seekers have arrived in Italy so far this year, 8,000 fewer than the same period last year.

At the same time, the number of migrants arriving in the European Union this year has more than doubled to over 522,000.

Eritreans fleeing political oppression and forced military conscription are the largest group arriving in Italy, about 27 percent of the total. Nigerians are next, followed by Somalians and Syrians, who have largely shifted their route to the much shorter, less dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

Alfano said Italy is now hosting 98,000 migrants.

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11:40 p.m.

Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline. There were no reports of violence.

Mayor Enrico Ioculano told Sky TG24 the city had sought to have the camp near the French border removed for months, saying it created "numerous difficulties" for the city and its residents.

Ventimiglia was a flashpoint in June, when migrants were prevented from leaving Italy by heightened French border controls.

Police stood by near the rocks hours after the dawn blitz Wednesday, with the atmosphere remaining tense. Italian news reports said the bishop of Ventimiglia had arrived to speak with the asylum-seekers and the volunteers helping them in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

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10:45 p.m.

Authorities in Greece say 2 people have died and 47 people have been rescued from a dinghy near the island of Lesbos.

The Greek Coast Guard said the incident occurred early Wednesday and that the bodies recovered were of a woman and a child. The survivors were being taken to the island. The circumstances of their deaths were not immediately clear.

Lesbos is the busiest entry point for migrants reaching the European Union, with some 2,000 arrivals per day from nearby Turkey. Most are Syrians fleeing the country's civil war. The International Organization for migration says over 522,000 people — a record number — have crossed the Mediterranean this year seeking refuge in Europe, 388,000 coming through Greece.

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10:15 a.m.

French authorities say an Eritrean migrant has been found dead in the tunnel beneath the English Channel, the latest of several killed this year as thousands of people fleeing poverty and war try to cross illegally from France into Britain.

The administration for the Pas-de-Calais region says the migrant was apparently hit by a freight train near the entrance to the tunnel in Calais. It said the man was in his 20s and was found alone Wednesday.

Eurotunnel, which operates the freight trains, lamented an "accident that unfortunately only confirms that any attempt to cross the Channel illegally carries considerable risks."

Thirteen people have now been killed trying to sneak across the Channel this year. French and British authorities have tried to crack down on the dangerous journeys.