The Latest: Eastern Europeans to cooperate on border control

AP News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2015 1:01 PM
The Latest: Eastern Europeans to cooperate on border control

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — The latest developments in the hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants passing through Europe on their way west. All times local.

7:00 p.m.

Hungary says it is in "constant consultations" with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia about cooperating on issues of border defense.

Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, said Thursday that Orban had talked about the issue with the leaders of the three other countries in the so-called Visegrad Group.

Lazar said over 291,000 migrants had entered Hungary so far this year, including 87,000 who crossed over from Croatia after Hungary shut down its border with Serbia on Sept. 15 with a 4-meter (13-feet) high fence protected by razor wire, police and military patrols.

Lazar said that a similar fence being built on the border with Croatia would be completed soon, making it possible "to defend Hungary and Europe."

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4:30 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency now predicts that 700,000 refugees and migrants will have traveled to Europe this year, and is seeking nearly $100 million to help handle the influx that has strained the European Union.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday increased its "emergency appeal" for donations to its Europe program to $128 million, from $30.5 million made just last month. The new appeal would broaden the response in the program beyond Europe to the Middle East and Africa.

UNHCR upped its already-outdated estimate of migrant and refugee inflows in 2015 from 400,000 previously. The agency estimates that 520,957 people — more than half from Syria — have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe this year, and some 2,980 people have died trying.

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4:05 p.m.

Volunteers are closing down a tent camp in Brussels where they have hosted hundreds of migrants seeking shelter in the European Union and say Belgian authorities need to take over their task.

The camp was set up over a month ago and was used by hundreds of people from war-torn nations like Syria and Iraq who were seeking asylum in Belgium.

Vanessa Van Strijthem, an organizer at the camp, said that the volunteers would still have an office nearby where refugees could come for help during the day, but would need to refer them to bunk beds the government has set up in an office tower.

"We're going to keep on fighting but we are only citizens. We need the government to take its responsibility," she said.

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3:20 p.m.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says his country is opposing any large European Union plan for a permanent compulsory redistribution of asylum-seekers among the bloc's 28 nations.

During a debate on the migrant crisis in the lower house of Parliament on Thursday, Sobotka said: "We're in the middle of a battle over a realistic approach of the entire European Union to the migrant crisis. The Czech Republic will vote against such a proposal. No government would be able to change such a mechanism in the future."

Last week, EU ministers agreed to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers in EU member states despite opposition from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Slovakia is planning to challenge that. Sobotka said the EU decision was bad but the Czechs would respect it.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said Thursday EU ministers will discuss the larger plan for the permanent redistribution of the migrants at their Oct. 8 meeting in Luxembourg.

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2:20 p.m.

The European Union is threatening to take action against Hungary over laws it has introduced to limit the flow of migrants through its territory.

Hungary introduced laws on Sept. 21 making it a criminal offence to cross its border illegally or damage an anti-migration razor-wire fence it erected.

The head of the European Commission's migration and protection wing, Laurent Muschel, told EU lawmakers Thursday that there are "a number of issues that we find problematic in their new legislation."

He said that "we are ready to take any further steps if needed." He did not go into details but said the Commission would lay out its concerns in a letter to Hungary by the end of this week.

The EU's border agency says more than 155,000 people have crossed Hungary's borders this year.

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1:50 p.m.

Germany's interior minister is urging migrants arriving in the country to respect other people, show patience and not fight each other, following occasional recent brawls at crowded refugee accommodation.

Thomas de Maiziere spoke Thursday as he introduced to Parliament a package of measures intended to streamline Germany's handling of the refugee influx.

Germany has been struggling to accommodate the newcomers and de Maiziere acknowledged that some housing "isn't pleasant." But, he said: "there is no other way at the moment."

He called for a "culture of recognition" from newcomers — meaning that they should accept local laws and be honest about their identity. He said: "this includes not fighting, this includes having patience and respecting other people, independent of religion and gender."

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1 p.m.

Croatian police say more than 90,000 migrants have passed through the country and moved on toward Western Europe in little more than two weeks.

Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said Thursday that only five people remain in one of the two main refugee camps in Croatia, while the rest have already moved on to Hungary.

Migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia want to reach the rich countries of Western Europe such as Germany and Sweden.

Croatia became a transit country for migrants in mid-September after Hungary closed its border with Serbia to stop the flow coming that way.

The migrant tide is not expected to slow amid fears of worsening weather conditions as winter approaches.