The Latest: Hungary to close reception center in Debrecen

AP News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2015 11:43 AM
The Latest: Hungary to close reception center in Debrecen

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

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5:35 p.m.

Officials say Hungary wants to close its largest reception center for refugees in the eastern city of Debrecen by the end of November.

Lajos Kosa, head of the governing Fidesz party's parliamentary group, said the plan by Interior Minister Sandor Pinter, to be discussed Friday by the Cabinet, proposes the dismantling of the center, whose grounds could be used later as a police station.

Kosa said the habits of some of those in the reception center were a threat to Debrecen's inhabitants and the reputation of the city's university attended by some 3,500 foreign students. He did not explain his statement.

Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the United Nations' refugee agency, said there were 260 refugees now at the Debrecen center which has room for 930 people. They are expected to be taken to other camps, including one in the town of Bicske, near Budapest.

Baloch said Hungary's approach to refugees and asylum seekers "has been restrictive and very concerning to UNHCR," adding that the organization continues to "advocate for a collective EU response to the current refugee crisis."

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5:15 p.m.

Austria's national railway says services between the city of Salzburg and Germany will remain suspended until at least Oct. 12 amid the ongoing influx of migrants.

The route from Salzburg into Germany and on to Munich is usually one of the busiest routes between the two countries. Direct trains from Budapest and Vienna to Munich run through Salzburg.

The closure had been tentatively scheduled to end Sunday but Austrian Federal Railways said on its website Friday that it has been "instructed by the German authorities" to suspend service until at least Oct. 12. Germany introduced border checks Sept. 13 to try to ensure proper registration of incoming migrants, and that led to delays.

Other railway crossings such as the one at Passau, further north, remain open.

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4:55 p.m.

The Czech Republic's interior minister says his country could send more than 100 police officers and soldiers to help Hungary defend its European Union borders.

Milan Chovanec said Friday that the matter will be discussed Oct. 8 at a meeting with his counterparts from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Earlier, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Twitter that the Czech government is "ready to help Hungary with the protection of the Schengen border."

All four countries in the so-called Visegrad Group, or V4, are in the EU's Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

On Thursday, Janos Lazar, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, said Orban had talked about cooperating on issues of border defense with the leaders of the three other countries.

Chovanec said the soldiers could be deployed within two weeks and he expected Poland and Slovakia to also send contingents.

It could create the awkward situation of having troops from EU members guarding Hungary's borders with fellow EU member Croatia, which is not a Schengen country, or with Serbia, a candidate to join the EU.

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3:15 p.m.

Germany's top security official says authorities so far have found no cases of terrorists with instructions to carry out attacks in the country mixing into the flow of incoming migrants.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday that authorities have received tips from intelligence services that this could happen and "we look into every one of these tips," but so far such concerns haven't been confirmed.

De Maiziere said German authorities also are looking into whether the large number of migrants raises the risk of crime and there's "no general trend" so far — though he said there have been issues with a small number of refugees.

He added that among refugees from Syria, the largest single group arriving, there is no indication so far of "elevated general criminality."

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2:25 p.m.

Finland says it now estimates the number of people to seek asylum this year to be closer to 50,000 that the earlier figure of 30,000.

The Interior Ministry said Friday some 11,000 asylum-seekers alone had arrived in September. Last year, some 3,600 people sought shelter in this Nordic nation of 5.5 million.

The vast majority of the refugees are Iraqis, among whom Finland has unexpectedly emerged as a top destination. According to official figures, some 12,000 Iraqis, or 70 percent of the applicants, have asked for asylum in Finland this year.

Only Germany, by far the biggest recipient of asylum-seekers, has seen higher numbers of Iraqis, who make up a small percentage of the migrants arriving in Europe overall.

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2:10 p.m.

Police have found 31 migrants, 30 of them Syrian refugees, hidden inside a refrigerated truck outside the northern French town of Dunkirk.

The prefecture of the Nord region said they were discovered Friday at a gas station in the town of Grande Synthe. All, including a 3-year-old, were in good health despite the truck's low temperature. The non-Syrian in the group was Vietnamese.

They were all released.

Many migrants use France as a transit zone on their way to Britain, with thousands who hope to sneak to Britain staying in a squalid migrant camp in Calais, near Dunkirk.

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1:05 p.m.

The international Red Cross says vulnerable migrants in the Balkans are facing increasingly difficult conditions with the arrival of heavy rains and cold weather.

It said Friday the deteriorating weather brings with it "severe health and safety risks to people who have already traveled thousands of miles, often with limited access to food, basic necessities, shelter or health care."

Serbia is in the center of the Balkan corridor for migrants who cross from Greece to Macedonia and then via Serbia to Croatia or Hungary. Some 250,000 migrants are estimated to have passed through Serbia since the beginning of this year.

Vesna Milenovic, an official for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, says "Our main concern is what will happen in the next few weeks and months. Autumn and winter weather can be severe in the region."

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12:40 p.m.

Croatian police say the number of migrants who have entered the country since mid-September could reach 100,000 on Friday.

Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said more than 97,000 people have crossed so far and more are expected by the end of the day and overnight.

Croatia has been transporting the migrants coming to the country from Serbia toward the border with 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.

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12:20 p.m.

The number of people seeking asylum in Hungary almost doubled in August as the government was building a razor-wire fence to stop migrants from entering the country from Serbia.

Figures from the European Union's statistical agency Friday show that 92,265 people applied for asylum in August compared to 49,250 in July.

That brings the total number of people seeking international protection there so far this year to around 207,000, according to Eurostat figures.

Most people arriving in Hungary travel overland from Greece and many try to move deeper into the EU bound for countries like Germany or Sweden.

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11:35 a.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is reporting a "noticeable drop" this week in arrivals of refugees by sea into Greece — as the total figure for the year nears the 400,000 mark.

Citing cooler, windier weather that makes the crossing from Turkey more dangerous, UNHCR said Friday that 1,500 people crossed the Aegean Sea a day earlier — down from an average of 5,000 per day in recent weeks.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said "any improvement in the weather is likely to bring another surge in arrivals." The agency anticipates 700,000 arrivals total by year end.

Overall, the UNHCR estimates 396,500 people have entered Greece via the Mediterranean this year. Seventy percent of them are from Syria.

The International Organization for Migration has a higher figure of inflows to Greece.

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11:25 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister says his Croatian counterpart is an envoy of a global left-wing organization whose job is to attack Hungary.

Orban said Friday on state radio that the parties in the Socialist International, which includes Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's Social Democratic Party, think the wave of migrants reaching Europe is a "good thing" and their leaders "are following the orders not so much of their people as of the Socialist International."

Orban said Hungary does not consider "what the Croatian prime minister says to be the opinion of the Croatian people."

Politicians from the two countries have been trading barbs since Hungary's decision on Sept. 15 to close its border with Serbia with a high fence protected by razor wire, police and soldiers.

Now, thousands of migrants a day are streaming into Hungary from neighboring Croatia in search of clear routes toward Germany and other destinations in the European Union.

Hungarian officials say they are close to completing a fence on the Croatian border, as well.

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8:50 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister says the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe are mostly young men who "look more like an army than asylum seekers."

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday on state radio that while he did not reject the right of any country to try to solve its demographic problems "with young men from the Arab world who look like warriors," it was unacceptable "to have this forced upon Hungary."

Orban, who is advocating for global quotas for receiving migrants, says it is unfair for countries like the United States, the rich Arab states, Israel and Australia to expect Europe to take in the migrants while accepting few or none themselves.

He said that if Europe tried to solve the migration crisis and other global problems on its own, "we will crush the lifestyle ... values and strengths we have developed in the past several hundreds of years."