The Latest: AFP photographer claims attack by Croatia police

AP News
|
Posted: Oct 19, 2015 2:05 PM
The Latest: AFP photographer claims attack by Croatia police

TRNOVEC, Croatia (AP) — The latest news as migrants fleeing war or seeking a better life make their way across Europe by the tens of thousands. All times local.

___

7:53 p.m.

A photographer working for Agence France-Presse says he has been assaulted by Croatian border police who also grabbed his cameras and threw them into the mud.

Andrej Isakovic said Monday that the incident happened while he was covering the migrant backlog at the Serbian-Croatian border.

Isakovic said two Croatian policemen first demanded the camera's memory cards. When he refused "they stormed at me, pulled me down to the ground, grabbed both of my cameras and threw them in the mud."

Isakovic says he wasn't on Croatian territory during the incident, and called the action "totally unprovoked." He said another freelance photographer was also assaulted.

Croatian police said in a statement that the two crossed illegally into Croatia with the migrants. They say policemen issued warnings and sent them back with their equipment.

___

7 p.m.

An Austrian state prosecutor says a suspect has been detained in connection with spraying a migrant with an irritant.

Erich Habitzl identified the suspect Monday as a 34-year old Danish male but declined to provide his name in keeping with Austrian privacy laws.

He is suspected of attacking a migrant last week at a train station south of Vienna with pepper spray or an irritant gas.

Habitzl says authorities have requested court approval to place the man in investigative custody. He says the suspect is refusing to cooperate with legal officials.

A volunteer worker also was sprayed while trying to protect the migrant.

___

6:45 p.m.

The Czech Republic is dispatching 50 police officers to Hungary to help contain the influx of migrants in Europe's visa-free Schengen zone.

The Interior Ministry said Monday's decision comes at the Hungarian request. The officers will be deployed alongside their Hungarian colleagues on the border with Serbia by the end of October and should stay until Dec. 15.

The Czechs already sent 20 soldiers to Hungary last week and said they were ready to deploy up to 100 if needed.

Poland and Slovakia also are contributing officers to help Hungary contain the influx of refugees.

The four EU countries form an informal group within the EU also known as the Visegrad Group.

___

6:25 p.m.

A train carrying about 1,300 migrants in Croatia has reached the Slovenian border, hours after another train was stopped and its passengers were stranded on the boundary for hours overnight.

The migrants from the second train walked on Monday across a bridge over the Sutla river that divides the two countries as they lined up to be registered by Slovenian officials. There were no incidents.

The earlier train carrying around 1,800 people arrived in early Monday. Croatian police let the migrants get off the train, but Slovenian police were deployed to the border and put up barriers to prevent a mass entry.

For hours, migrants sought ways to sneak into Slovenia, before Slovenians eventually let them all into the country.

Slovenia, which says it can handle 2,500 people a day, has denounced Croatia for sending larger groups into the tiny Alpine country.

___

5:20 p.m.

A U.N. refugee agency official says Croatia has opened its border with Serbia for migrants, letting in thousands who have been stranded for nearly two days.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melita Sunjic, who is on the border, said Monday that "without any announcement, the borders opened. When the borders opened, everybody rushed" over.

Sunjic said "the last person to go was a young boy without a leg, and we helped him cross in a wheelchair."

There were between 2,000 and 3,000 migrants stuck on the border in mud and rain when the gates were opened.

___

4:15 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister has said he won't allow his country to be treated as a "concentration camp" for refugees but is willing to work with EU countries to stem the illegal flow of migrants.

Ahmet Davutoglu made the comments Monday, a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Turkey's leaders on a European Union plan that would offer aid and concessions to Turkey in exchange for measures to halt the mass movement of migrants across Europe's borders.

Davutoglu told A Haber news channel in an interview that the sides had agreed to set up a system that would put illegal migration under check.

Davutoglu said: "No one should expect Turkey to turn into a concentration camp where all of the refugees are kept."

___

4 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 10,000 migrants are stranded in cold and rain in Serbia, as Croatia restricts their flow toward Western Europe.

Regional UNHCR spokeswoman Melita Sunjic said Monday that about 10,000 migrants entered Serbia from Macedonia on Sunday, more than the daily average over the past month.

Sunjic tells the AP that the bottleneck on the Serbian border with Croatia "created a domino effect" when Slovenia slowed down the flow of migrants over the Balkans by restricting their entry numbers to up to 2,500 a day.

About 6,000 people were stuck on Monday in mud and driving rain on the Serbia-Croatia border. More are arriving.

She described their situation as "awful and hellish."

Sunjic says "these people are out in the open, they cannot sleep on the ground because of knee-deep mud."

___

2:15 p.m.

Croatia's interior minister has rejected Slovenia's accusations that Croatia broke an agreement on limiting the numbers crossing their border to 2,500 a day, saying the Slovenes have kept changing the figure.

Ranko Ostojic said Monday that "on the first day, they said they will allow 8 thousand. The figure turned to 5,000 in 24 hours, and then to 2,500. In the end, it became zero."

He says Croatia won't allow itself to become a "migrant collection center" for the EU, and accused Greece for failing to stem the flow of tens of thousands into Europe from Turkey.

Croatian police say more than 197,000 people have entered the country since Hungary closed its border with Serbia on Sept. 15, diverting their flow to Croatia.

___

2:10 p.m.

The mayor of the northern French city of Calais says troops may be needed to cope with the rising number of migrants camped in her city in hopes of reaching a better life in Britain.

Connected to England by a train tunnel, Calais has been seen as a jumping off point for migrants for years. But Mayor Natacha Bouchart says the population of the shanty camps near the French terminal has doubled to about 6,000 in recent weeks. Bouchart told RMC radio Monday that lawlessness in the camps was untenable and said she was speaking with France's top security official about the situation.

Each night, migrants rush the tracks that link the two countries in hopes of stowing away. More than a dozen have been killed since summer.

___

12:05 p.m.

Slovenia's interior minister has lashed out at Croatia for transporting large groups of migrants to their border, saying it is "absolutely unacceptable."

Vesna Gyorkos Znidar said Monday that Croatia has started to send a "very big number of immigrants, out of a previously arranged framework."

She said that Slovenia can manage up to 2,500 people a day and "can't accept an unlimited number" of migrants.

About 1,800 people have spent the night in rain and cold at the border after Croatia sent a train there early Monday despite Slovenia's refusal to let them into the country.

The interior minister said that "the Croatian side is not responding" to the Slovenian demands to control the flow and is acting only as "a transporter."

___

11:55 a.m.

Authorities in the German city of Dresden are stepping up security precautions for the anniversary rally of PEGIDA, a group that has drawn thousands to its weekly gatherings against Islam and migrants.

The move comes as the government sharpens its rhetoric against PEGIDA, a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West.

Germany's interior minister says the domestic intelligence service is now observing PEGIDA and called its leaders "hard far-right extremists." Last week, one protester carried a gallows marked "reserved for (Chancellor) Angela Merkel."

Thomas de Maiziere told public broadcaster ARD late Sunday that groups such as PEGIDA were paving the way for violence, citing a weekend knife attack on a politician in Cologne. The attacker told police he acted out of anti-foreigner motives.

___

11:40 a.m.

Greece's coast guard says it has rescued 2,561 people in dozens of incidents in the eastern Aegean over the weekend as Europe's refugee crisis continues unabated.

The coast guard said Monday the rescues occurred in 69 operations from Friday morning until Monday morning near eight Aegean islands. The number doesn't include those who make it ashore themselves from the nearby Turkish coast, often in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels.

On Sunday, the bodies of two women, a baby and a teenager were recovered near the remote island of Kastelorizo after their vessel overturned, while 12 others were rescued by a passing sailing boat. The deaths came a day after a 7-year-old boy died after falling into the water from a boat carrying 80 people who reached the island of Agathonissi.

___

11:30 a.m.

Austrian officials are denying reports that they are restricting entries from Slovenia to migrants seeking asylum in Western Europe.

Interior Ministry spokesman Hermann Muhr said Monday that the "status quo" will continue. He and other officials didn't specify numbers.

They spoke after Slovenian officials said Austrian counterparts told them that about 1,500 people would be allowed to cross each day.

With the entry route into Austria shifting after Hungary sealed its border with Croatia, police say that no migrants have crossed into Austria over the main border point with Hungary since Saturday.

Migrants are now traveling through Slovenia from Croatia into Austria and beyond.

Police on Monday reported no new arrivals at the Nickelsdorf border station since Saturday, when 4,155 migrants crossed.

___

11:15 a.m.

Hundreds of migrants, who have been stuck at Serbia's border with Croatia, have started moving, spreading across fields to avoid Croatian police blocking their way into the European Union.

The migrants are walking in groups, taking routes through orchards and corn fields away from a border passage that has served as a crossing point for weeks. Families with children, men and women can be seen walking away in mud and cold in search of new paths.

Croatian police were deployed with metal barriers Monday on the usual migrant passage in an attempt to control the influx of people. Hundreds of migrants spent the night on the border in buses and tents, with tensions building.

Croatia says about 4,000 people are already in the refugee camp near the border.

___

10:50 a.m.

Passenger train service between France and England has been suspended after migrants rushed the French terminal in hopes of reaching a better life in Britain.

The trains that cross beneath the Channel face increasingly frequent delays as more migrants take their chances on the tracks that link the two countries, with many each night trying to stow away on the trucks and cars loading on the freight train. At one point during the summer, hundreds of migrants, who live by the thousands in shanty camps in Calais, tried to rush the boarding area at once.

Eurotunnel said Monday's problem originated in Calais, where the overnight rush happened later than usual, affecting the early morning trains. Service was expected to resume midmorning.

___

10:20 a.m.

Hundreds of migrants, including women and small children, have been left waiting in the mud on the border between Serbia and Croatia after Croatian police put up a fence to control the influx.

The migrants have spent the night in aid tents and buses. On Monday, parents were seen handing over babies to Croatian police across the metal barriers.

Farouk Al-Hatib from Syria says "we are in cold weather and the place is not good ... our message for the governments is to take into consideration our suffering."

The backlog built up after Hungary closed down its border to Croatia for the flow of migrants and they were diverted to Slovenia, which is only taking in limited numbers.

Croatian police say more than 4,000 migrants remain in the refugee camp in Opatovac near the Serbian border.

___

9:25 a.m.

Hundreds of migrants have spent the night in rain and cold at Croatia's border with Slovenia after Croatia sent a train there despite Slovenia's refusal to take any more people into the country.

The train carrying some 1,800 people arrived in the early hours of the morning Monday. Croatian police let the migrants get off the train but Slovenian police were deployed to the border and put up fences to prevent a mass entry.

For hours, migrants — including women and children — sought ways to sneak into Slovenia, while authorities allowed in only small groups. Croatian police on the other side prevented migrants from turning back.

Slovenian police said Monday that 150 women and children from the train have been registered and let into the country. The border incident has caused a diplomatic spat between Croatia and Slovenia.