The Latest: UN experts say force won't stop migrants

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2015 7:59 PM
The Latest: UN experts say force won't stop migrants

BERKASOVO, Serbia (AP) — The latest news as asylum-seekers make their way across Europe by the tens of thousands, fleeing war or seeking a better life. All times local:

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7:50 p.m.

Two United Nations experts on the human rights of migrants are warning that force won't stop Europe's migration crisis and will only fuel unscrupulous smugglers.

Francois Crepeau, the U.N. special investigator on migrant rights, and Francisco Carrion, head of the U.N. Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers, criticized a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing European Union inspection and use of force against boats in the high seas suspected smuggling migrants from Libya.

Creapeau told a news conference Friday that "humankind is wired for migration" and the only way to get rid of smugglers is to offer mobility to refugees and migrants.

He said Europe should implement massive refugee resettlement programs from transit countries over many years and crack down on unscrupulous employers hiring cheap migrant labor.

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6:50 p.m.

Slovenia's prime minister, Miro Cerar, says the influx of tens of thousands of migrants is putting too much strain on his country and others in Europe.

He called Friday for common EU action and effective protection of the EU's external borders, saying that "if these big waves of migrants just continue to come to Slovenia, it will be impossible to carry this on."

Cerar says: "Slovenia for example with 2 million inhabitants is now receiving every day as many refugees as in a proportion like Germany accepting half a million a day." Cerar adds "it's just unbearable, we just cannot accept this, it is too much."

He adds that the situation "is also impossible for Germany, for Sweden, for Austria."

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6:30 p.m.

A medical mission dispatched to evaluate sanitary conditions in a vast and squalid migrant camp near the French port of Calais is recommending urgent improvements to housing and health care at the site.

France's health and interior ministers said in a statement Friday the mission's preliminary recommendations would be rapidly implemented, including boosting resources at the Calais hospital and through campaigns to increase vaccination and contraceptive use.

The mission's full report is due for publication next week.

Doctors of the World, an NGO that maintains a mobile clinic in Calais, says it is overwhelmed, treating some 70 patients a day at the camp, mainly for illnesses like respiratory and skin infections linked to their precarious lives, or cuts and fractures from failed attempts to board a truck, train or ferry crossing the Channel.

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5:20 p.m.

Germany's governing coalition is edging toward an agreement on processing migrants who have no realistic chance of gaining asylum at or near the country's border.

Bavarian conservatives in Chancellor Angela Merkel's bloc want border "transit zones" to weed out applicants who have little chance of winning asylum. But Merkel's center-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, said they wouldn't sign up to keeping large numbers of people in custody at the border while applications are processed.

Conservative Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday that officials agree they want to set up "a fast procedure at the border" for those who don't qualify for asylum, but details of the plan are still being discussed.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat, said they agreed there will be "no detention zones at German borders."

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5:10 p.m.

Slovenian police say more than 50,000 asylum-seekers have entered in the last week since the flow of those heading toward Western Europe was diverted by Hungary's decision to close its border with Croatia.

Police said 9,000 people crossed from Croatia to Slovenia on Friday alone, while 11,000 still remain in the small Alpine nation's several refugee centers.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar has toured the refugee camp at Brezice, which has been overloaded and where a fire broke out two days ago amid migrant discontent over their slow journey. Cerar describes the situation at Brezice as "stable," but local authorities have asked that refugees be moved.

Slovenia, a country of 2 million, says it's overwhelmed with the thousands of refugees coming its way.

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4:50 p.m.

The European Union says decisions by Austria and Germany to temporarily reintroduce border checks are an acceptable response to the arrival of thousands of asylum-seekers.

The EU's executive Commission said Friday that both countries' actions were "motivated by the serious threat to the internal security and public policy."

Austria and Germany are part of the European passport-free zone known as the Schengen area, which allows nations to temporarily reintroduce ID checks in extraordinary circumstances. This routinely happens for major political or sports events but it's the first time it has for mass movements of people.

The Commission welcomed Slovenia's decision to halt temporary border checks and said Hungary's move to reintroduce them would be assessed.

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4:00 p.m.

The International Office for Migration says Greece over the last week experienced the largest single weekly influx of migrants this year, at an average of some 9,600 per day.

The Geneva-based intergovernmental body says some 48,000 people crossed from Turkey to Greek islands "despite deteriorating weather conditions" from Oct. 17-21. IOM says over 27,000 arrived in Lesbos and another 9,750 in Chios, and "the influx has left many local authorities unprepared."

In September, sea crossings mostly varied between 4,000 and 6,000 per day.

The agency reports that a total of 18 people died in two instances during the past week, including 14 off the island of Samos.

Overall, IOM estimates 680,928 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, and 3,175 have died trying. Nearly 90 percent of those died on the longer route between North Africa and Italy.

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3:55 p.m.

Austrian officials say 52 of the 71 migrants found dead in a truck parked on the side of a highway in August have been identified.

Earlier investigations have revealed that the victims suffocated in the air-tight cargo area of the vehicle, likely while the truck was still in Hungary and headed toward Austria.

Police official Christian Rosenich said Friday DNA samples taken from or sent by relatives have been used to identify the victims. In some cases, a few drops of blood, mailed in an envelope, were sufficient.

Police say those identified came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and were aged between 10 months and 56 years.

Identification work is continuing. Anyone left unidentified will be buried in the village of Parndorf, near where the truck was parked.

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3:10 p.m.

The Slovenian military says 650 troops have been deployed to help police with the thousands of migrants crossing through the Alpine nation toward Western Europe.

The Defense Ministry said Friday it has delayed a planned deployment of some 200 soldiers to a NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Kosovo because of the crisis.

The military says troops have provided logistical support and equipment, including a surveillance helicopter and army trucks for transport. The army says most are soldiers with experience in missions abroad.

Slovenia's lawmakers earlier this week granted some police powers to the army after police complained its own capacities have been stretched to the limits.

Migrants have switched to Slovenia for a gateway to Western Europe after Hungary closed its border with Croatia on Saturday.

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2:30 p.m.

Slovenian officials say erecting a fence along the border with Croatia has not been ruled out in tackling the migrant surge into the small Alpine nation.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar was quoted Friday by the state news agency STA as saying Slovenia will consider all options if left to cope on its own with the influx of thousands of people.

Cerar says Slovenia primarily wants to find "a European solution," but that it is open for all options "within what is acceptable" if such hopes are dashed.

Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec says a fence along the 670-kilometer (400-mile) border with Croatia would be used to control the flow rather than to stop the migrants from coming in as Hungary has done.

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1:35 p.m.

A soccer derby has been canceled in Slovenia because the country's police force is so tied up with the migrant crisis that it could not provide security for the match.

The game between Maribor and Olimpija, which was planned for Saturday, is considered a high-risk event and would normally be guarded by hundreds of riot police to prevent fan clashes.

The cancellation has angered fans of the rival clubs. Olimpija fans said on their Facebook page that they had prepared for the event for months.

Slovenia has sought EU police assistance and called in army troops to help manage the migrant influx into the small Alpine nation. Migrants started coming into Slovenia after Hungary closed its border, redirecting the flow.

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12:30 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency reports a growing number of cases in which children in southeastern Europe have been forced into sex to pay for the continuation of their journeys as they flee war and poverty.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the agency is still assessing how many children might be affected but is going public with concerns to pressure governments along the route to do more to help children.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Fleming said extortion of children appears to be happening "in every single country" along the route. UNHCR estimates at least 644,000 people have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean this year — about one-third of them women and children.

Fleming said it appears that smugglers, criminal gangs and other refugees could potentially be behind the abuse. The agency says unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable.

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12:15 p.m.

Many migrants are avoiding an Austrian border collection point set up for new arrivals from Slovenia, and police say some are endangering themselves and others by walking on railway tracks leading away from the border.

Police say that hundreds of people made a detour Friday around the collection center at the Spielfeld crossing. They marched over tracks leading from Slovenia into Austria instead of the regular entry point and then continued walking on foot.

Reporters estimated the number at more than 1,000 but say some then were persuaded to join others at the center waiting for processing and transport to shelters.

Officials say about 6,000 people crossed into Austria at Spielfeld on Thursday. With shelters full, blankets were provided to hundreds sleeping in the open with temperatures near the freezing point.

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12 p.m.

Paris authorities have evacuated a former high school that hundreds of Syrian, Afghan and other migrants had called home for months.

France has been criticized for not finding enough housing for asylum-seekers, even as other European countries have taken in hundreds of thousands of new arrivals this year.

Amid health and safety concerns, authorities moved in Friday to evacuate the Jean-Quarre school in northern Paris. Its unused classrooms, hallways and schoolyard became an informal refuge over the summer.

The migrants boarded buses and were being taken to shelters and residences in the Paris region, according to city hall. The operation unfolded calmly. Some wrapped themselves in blankets as they waited for buses.

Thousands of migrants are still living in a filthy camp in the English Channel port city of Calais.

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11:45 a.m.

Germany's interior minister says measures meant to streamline the country's handling of the migrant influx and make it easier to deport rejected asylum applicants will take effect this weekend, more than a week earlier than planned.

The package approved by lawmakers last week aims to cut red tape, speed deportations and curb cash benefits. Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro — from which large numbers of people have arrived this year — join other Balkan countries in being declared safe states, meaning their citizens can be sent back faster.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday the number of deportations will rise, but didn't specify when and by how much. He said there have been 11,000 deportations so far this year and four or five times as many people left voluntarily.

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11 a.m.

German automaker Daimler AG says it's giving the German Red Cross more than 600,000 euros ($667,000) it collected through a company employee donation program to help the agency deal with the flood of asylum-seekers into the country.

Daimler said Friday it collected 300,666 euros from employees in the monthlong internal fundraising drive and that the company was matching the donations euro-for-euro, doubling the sum.

The company says the Red Cross will use the money where's most needed; at the moment for housing for newcomers and to bring in more personnel to help.

Daimler next month is also starting a program to bring in 40 asylum-seekers as trainees at its Mercedes-Benz plant in Stuttgart.

Germany expects at least 800,000 newcomers this year and is struggling to keep up with the influx.

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10:20 a.m.

Slovenia's prime minister says his country has asked the European Commission for 60 million euros ($68 million) over six months to aid the handling of thousands of migrants passing through.

Miro Cerar said on public broadcaster TV Slovenia late Thursday that apart from financial aid, Slovenia has also requested police gear and personnel from the EU. He says several countries already have offered to send police with Slovenia's force stretched to the limits.

Cerar said that 13,000 newcomers entering the small Balkan nation of 2 million in one day is as if half a million would enter Germany.

Nearly 50,000 migrants have entered Slovenia since Hungary closed its border with Croatia Saturday and migrants turned to the Alpine nation for a new passage to Western Europe.

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10 a.m.

Thousands of migrants, including small children, have spent the night out in the open in near-freezing cold waiting to cross the Serbian border with Croatia.

A U.N. refugee agency field officer said Friday about 5,000 migrants were stuck at the muddy crossing overnight because Croatian police temporarily closed the border passage.

Maher Is'haqat, a Protection Officer from the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees says "it was a very cold night." He says the migrants were obliged to stay at the crossing overnight.

People have been lighting fires and using blankets and tents to warm up. Croatian police have been letting in smaller groups since early in the morning.

Since Hungary closed its border with Croatia to migrants on Saturday, they now travel from Croatia to Slovenia on their way toward northern Europe.