The Latest: German county declares refugee emergency

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 8:56 PM
The Latest: German county declares refugee emergency

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest developments as hundreds of thousands of people seeking safety make an epic trek through Europe. All times local.

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8:45 p.m.

A German county has declared an emergency ahead of the arrival of some 1,000 refugees on Monday.

Officials in Main-Taunus county west of Frankfurt say the unusual action aims to make it easier for authorities to cope with the influx, for example by suspending certain building regulations.

In a statement Friday, they said it was the first time since 1945 that a disaster has been declared in the country.

Germany has seen almost 600,000 migrants arrive since the start of the year, including many refugees from conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan

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7:50 p.m.

The Czech Republic is putting 650 soldiers on alert to be ready to help police deal with a possible influx of migrants.

Defense Ministry spokesman Petr Medek says the soldiers are ready to join police forces on the border with Austria in two hours. The announcement came after police said they were sharply increasing policing on the Austrian border, with the number of officers rising from 220 to 720.

The Czechs say they aren't restoring border controls, at least for now. Czech territory so far has rarely been used by the tens of thousands of refugees heading to Germany and other countries in Western Europe.

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6:05 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution to authorize the European Union and individual countries to seize migrant-smuggling vessels on the high seas off Libya.

The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which means it can be militarily enforced. It also authorizes the EU and individual nations to board vessels "with a view to saving the threatened lives of migrants or of victims of human trafficking." The search-and-seizure operation is authorized for one year.

The resolution says migrants "should be treated with humanity and dignity." Council diplomats say migrants on vessels that are seized would be taken to Italy.

The EU initially wanted a naval operation that could operate in Libyan territorial waters but Libya objected.

The International Organization for Migration says 2,987 migrants have died so far in 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea.

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4:30 p.m.

Sweden's prime minister says preliminary estimates indicate more than 150,000 asylum seekers will arrive in the country this year.

Stefan Lofven said Friday nearly 9,000 people have sought asylum in Sweden in the past seven days alone and the country is preparing for a crisis situation.

The government has ordered the Swedish Migration Agency to set up tents to provide temporary accommodation and has tasked local authorities with drawing up an inventory of all premises in the country that can be used as shelters.

He cautioned that it will take longer for authorities to process asylum applications.

Lofven said the government will inform about the cost of housing the arrivals after the migration agency delivers a more precise estimate of the number of arrivals, in a couple of weeks.

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4:25 p.m.

The southern state of Bavaria is calling on the German government to turn refugees back at the country's border if it can't get other European Union countries to abide by rules that mean newcomers are supposed to be processed in the first EU country where they arrive.

Governor Horst Seehofer and his conservative government have been the most prominent domestic critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming approach to refugees.

Most migrants to Germany arrive in Bavaria. Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann urged the federal government Friday to send a clear signal "that Germany has reached the limits of its capacity." He noted that Germany is surrounded by "safe countries."

He said that if Berlin doesn't take effective measures soon to limit the influx, Bavaria reserves the right to lodge a complaint with Germany's highest court.

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4:20 p.m.

Germany's interior minister says his office has recorded more than 490 attacks — ranging from arson to racist graffiti — on refugee shelters this year.

Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview published Friday that the number represents "a massive increase of xenophobic attacks against asylum-seekers."

De Maiziere told Berlin's Morgenpost newspaper that two-thirds of suspects were people who lived near the shelters and had no previous criminal record.

His comments came as police in the western city of Hagen said they detained two men aged 23 and 25 on suspicion of carrying out an arson attack against a house used by refugees in the nearby town of Altena.

Hagen police said one of the unnamed men acknowledged being angry at the housing of refugees in his neighborhood.

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3:50 p.m.

Croatia's defense minister says plenty of individuals and even some state businesses are profiting from the surge of migrants through the Balkans.

Minister Ante Kotromanovic, speaking Friday while visiting a migrant camp in eastern Croatia, said the exodus of Syrians and other people fleeing war and poverty is "a big business, which is organized."

He says "up to our border, someone is profiting big."

He did not elaborate, but Croatian officials have alleged that migrants in Serbia have paid unreasonably high prices to taxi drivers and state bus companies to be driven to the Croatian border, from where they head to Hungary and onto Western Europe.

Croatian police say nearly 137,000 migrants have crossed from Serbia since mid-September, including 7,798 on Thursday.

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3:35 p.m.

Turkey says it is concerned about a possible new refugee influx from Syria due to Russia's military campaign there.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters on Friday however, that Turkey was taking the "necessary precautions" to deal with the possible influx.

Turkey is currently hosting 2.2 million refugees from Syria and 300,000 Iraqis, making it the world's biggest refugee host.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey has so far spent $7.8 billion hosting the refugees.

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1:45 p.m.

Hungary's president has warned that solidarity with refugees escaping war must not overshadow concerns about human trafficking and the threat from extremists in relation to the migrant crisis.

Janos Ader said Friday that while "the humanitarian aspects are very important, especially with the coming winter ... we would be making a big political mistake if we neglect the criminal and national security aspects of this migration wave."

Ader spoke in the resort town of Balatonfured during a meeting of the so-called Visegrad Group, which also includes Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and also attended by the president of Croatia.

Polish President Andrzej Duda emphasized that the European Union's plan to distribute 120,000 refugees on a per-country quota was "not an effective solution" to the migrant crisis and that the large number of migrants reaching Croatia, Hungary, Italy or Greece was "a problem of the whole European Union and that is how this issue should be approached."

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12:50 p.m.

The International Organization for Migration says it has seen a sharp increase in the number of people landing on Greece's eastern islands over the past week, with around 7,000 people arriving every day.

The IOM said in Geneva on Friday that the increase may be due to migrants' expectations that weather conditions will soon worsen. The group said its staff were seeing around 4,500 arrivals per day at the end of September and the figure was as low as 2,711 on Oct. 1.

It says that congestion on the island of Lesbos, a main point of arrival for refugees and other migrants making the sea crossing from Turkey to EU member Greece, has declined despite the increase in newcomers.

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12:05 p.m.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says the influx of migrants is "the greatest humanitarian effort in Swedish history."

Lofven says his country was preparing itself for a crisis situation, adding tent camps could be erected in camping sites to house the refugees.

At a joint news conference Friday, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said Sweden had reached "a very dramatic stage" and had so far received more than 115,000 applications this year.

In the past week, Sweden has counted 8,899 asylum-seekers, including 1,609 just on Thursday.

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11:45 a.m.

The Czech Republic is sharply increasing policing of the border with Austria to be able to deal with a possible influx of migrants.

After the Czechs beefed up security on the Austrian-Czech border on Sept. 13 in response to Germany's decision to restore border controls, they had been mounting random controls at 14 border crossings.

The Interior Minister announced Thursday such measures will be done on 20 crossings, starting Saturday.

On Friday, police said the number of officers on the border will be increased from 200 to 720 Saturday and will be present also along the Austrian border.

Police says the Czechs aren't restoring border controls, at least for now. Czech territory so far has rarely been used by the migrants on their way to Germany and other rich Western countries.

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10 a.m.

An Italian police aircraft carrying 19 Eritreans has taken off from Rome's Ciampino airport bringing the first refugees to Sweden under the European Union's new resettlement program aimed at redistributing asylum-seekers from hard-hit receiving countries.

The aircraft carrying the refugees was bound for Kallax Airport in Lulea, in the far north of Sweden.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who was on hand to bid the Eritreans farewell, has said the transfer is proof that Europe has finally changed its migration policy.

Italy for years has demanded Europe shoulder more of the burden of the continent's refugee crisis. Even though most migrants prefer to pass through Italy en route to destinations further north, Alfano has been keen to show off the first flight to try to quiet anti-immigrant critics at home.

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9:40 a.m.

Greece's coast guard says it has rescued 542 people in 12 search and rescue incidents from Thursday morning to Friday morning.

The rescues occurred off the coasts of the eastern Aegean islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonissi and Farmakonissi, the coast guard said.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their homelands have reached Greece so far this year, the vast majority on rickety boats or cheap inflatable dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast. Although a short sea journey, it can be fatal as the unseaworthy and overloaded boats sometimes sink.

Very few of those arriving in Greece want to stay in the financially stricken country, instead moving north through the Balkans to more prosperous European Union countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden.

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9:30 a.m.

Greece's coast guard says a wooden boat carrying a large number of refugees or other migrants has run aground on the small eastern Aegean island of Leros, while an infant died after the inflatable dinghy he was in partially sank off the coast of Lesbos island.

The wooden boat, carrying about 100 people, ran aground Friday on the northeast coast of Leros, the coast guard said. Those on board were being taken to shore by coast guard and private vessels that arrived to help.

In the Lesbos incident, the coast guard rescued 56 people from the sea Thursday night after the rear part of their dinghy burst, partially sinking the boat. A 1-year-old boy was recovered unconscious and transported to a hospital, but rescuers were unable to revive him.