The Latest: UNHCR reports record monthly migrants Med tally

AP News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 1:19 PM
The Latest: UNHCR reports record monthly migrants Med tally

LESBOS, Greece (AP) — The latest as hundreds of thousands of people seeking safety flood into Europe in search of a new life. All times local.

7:35 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 218,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in October — a record monthly tally this year and more than in all of 2014.

UNHCR says 210,265 people crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece alone last month and another 8,129 went from north Africa to Italy through Oct. 29. The agency estimates that about 216,000 people crossed the Mediterranean last year, while another 3,000 crossed Turkey's land border.

Spokesman Adrian Edwards on Monday called the October figure "beyond anything that could have been expected even a few months ago."

European Union pledges to relocate about 160,000 refugees — less than three-fourths of the October influx — shows the response is still far short of needs.

UNHCR estimates that more than 600,000 people crossed the Mediterranean this year.

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6:20 p.m.

The chairman of the euro currency group says financially ailing Greece needs help dealing with the huge number of migrants arriving on its shores as they flee to Europe.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a group of reporters in The Hague that "we need to do as much as we can to help Greece deal with that. It's a major challenge, it's a humanitarian challenge and it cannot be done by Greece on its own."

Discussing the broader implications of the crisis, Dijsselbloem said that the European Commission should take into account the financial impact when judging the budgets of the hardest hit nations, which do not have economies robust enough to absorb the costs.

Dijsselbloem says that for some countries, "there is a risk of, let's say, derailing the budget, getting off track."

He says that in such cases the commission "can take into consideration these very extraordinary circumstances." He did not name any of the countries that might qualify for such treatment.

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5:15 p.m.

Following a decision to dispatch police officers in Slovenia, the Czech government has also approved a deployment of up 50 soldiers to help the tiny Alpine nation cope with the influx of thousands of migrants.

Answering a request from Slovenia, Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky says up to 50 soldiers, including medical personnel will be sent to the country by mid-November for a month-long mission.

Earlier Monday, the government approved a plan to send a unit of 20 police officers to Slovenia to help protect the external border of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone.

The Czechs already sent 50 policemen and 20 soldiers to help Hungary.

In a related move, the government agreed to provide an extra 105 million koruna ($4.3 million) this year to help refugees in the Middle East and Africa.

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4:45 p.m.

Greek authorities have increased to 43 the number of deaths from last week's sinking of an overloaded wooden boat carrying more than 300 refugees and economic migrants from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.

The coast guard said Monday that rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of 20 children, 17 men and six women who drowned after the battered vessel capsized off the eastern Aegean Sea island in rough seas Oct. 28.

A total of 274 people survived the accident, which was the worst in Greek waters during the mass refugee influx following the war in Syria.

At least 90 people have drowned in the Aegean Sea over the past five days, while thousands have crossed to the Greek islands on frail, unseaworthy craft provided by smuggling gangs.

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2:45 p.m.

Germany says it expects the so-called hotspots for migrants in Greece to begin functioning by the end of the month.

The European Union agreed to set up the processing centers in those countries where the biggest numbers of migrants arrive. Those deemed likely to get asylum or some other form of protection are then meant to be redistributed across the EU.

Tobias Plate, a spokesman for Germany's interior ministry, said the centers were at various stages of completion but "we expect this to proceed rapidly."

Plate told reporters in Berlin on Monday that Germany "expect that in November...the hotspots, particularly in Greece, will become fully operational."

Germany, meanwhile, is close to completing work on two "waiting zones" capable of housing 5,000 migrants each at its border with Austria, Plate said.

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2:40 p.m.

The Czech Republic is sending a unit of 20 police officers to Slovenia to help the tiny Alpine nation cope with the influx of thousands of migrants and protect the external border of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says Monday's decision by the government follows a request by Slovenia and the officers are expected to be deployed along the border with EU member Croatia in a week.

Chovanec says they should stay there at least a month but that could be extended if Slovenia needs them for a longer time.

The Czechs already sent 50 policemen to help Hungary last week.

Slovenia has said its capacities are stretched to the limit with thousands of migrants crossing its territory in hopes of reaching Western Europe.

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2:35 p.m.

Police say a total of 307,000 refugees and other migrants have passed through Croatia since the surge of people spilled over from neighboring Balkan states.

Police spokesman Domagoj Dzigumovic said Monday that 8,400 entered on Sunday alone, which made it one of the busiest days since Sept. 16 when Hungary sealed its border with Serbia and the migrant route was diverted to Croatia.

Police in Slovenia said a total of 8,500 people arrived there by trains on Sunday and early Monday. This brings the total number of arrivals in the small Alpine country to over 126,000 since Oct. 17 when Hungary also closed its border with Croatia and migrants started crossing into Slovenia.

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2:20 p.m.

Ambulance workers are protesting on the Greek island of Lesbos, where state budget cuts have left only three vehicles in operation despite a massive daily influx of refugees.

The drivers protested in the island's capital of Mytilene, then handed out clothes to refugee children.

Costas Filis, head of the island's ambulance workers association, told The Associated Press that five ambulances were awaiting repairs and that staff shortages had forced rescuers to work up to 16 hours at a time.

More than 300,000 people have traveled on dinghies and boats from nearby Turkey to Lesbos this year, with dozens dying along the way. Most land on the north coast of the island, an hour-long drive from the main hospital at Mytilene.

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1:35 p.m.

Greece's coast guard says it has rescued more than 1,400 people in 39 separate search-and-rescue operations in the eastern Aegean over the weekend.

The wave of people fleeing conflict and poverty to come to Europe is continuing unabated despite worsening weather conditions. High winds churned the Aegean over the weekend.

The coast guard said it had picked up 1,431 people near the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Farmakonissi, Kalymnos, Kalolymnos, Symi and Rhodes between Friday morning and Monday morning.

More than 70 people, many of them children, have died in the last week when their smuggling boats overturned or sank in rough seas as they tried to reach Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast.

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1:25 p.m.

Bavaria's governor is declaring himself satisfied, for now, with a weekend compromise with fellow conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's party on how to handle Europe's migrant crisis.

Horst Seehofer has been the most prominent critic of Merkel's welcoming approach to the refugees and had demanded government action by Sunday to limit the influx. Leaders of Merkel's governing coalition didn't agree on new action Sunday but agreed to meet again on Thursday.

However, Seehofer's Bavaria-only Christian Social Union stepped back from a spat with the rest of Merkel's conservative bloc. The conservatives issued a joint paper calling for a reduction in the number of refugees arriving in Germany and for "transit zones" to weed out people who have no realistic claim to asylum.

About 577,000 people seeking asylum have arrived in Germany from January to the end of September.

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12:35 p.m.

The mayor of the Greek island of Lesbos says there's no more room to bury the increasing number of asylum-seekers killed in shipwrecks of smuggling boats coming in from nearby Turkey.

Mayor Spyros Galinos told Greece's Vima FM radio Monday there were more than 50 bodies in the morgue on his eastern Aegean island that he was still trying to find a burial location for. Galinos said he was trying to fast-track procedures so a field next to the main cemetery could be taken over for burials.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year. With rougher fall weather coming on, the bodies of 19 people were recovered from the Aegean in three separate incidents on Sunday alone.

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11:40 p.m.

An Afghan official in Kabul says authorities will take back all Afghan citizens deported from Germany, which is struggling to accommodate the hundreds of thousands who have arrived this year seeking safety.

Afghans currently make up the second largest nationality, after Syrians, arriving in Europe.

The deputy presidential spokesman, Zafar Hashemi, says as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, Afghanistan is obliged to accept its citizens whose asylum applications have been rejected. He says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have discussed the issue.

Germany's interior minister has said many Afghans who arrive will have to go home.

Officials say Monday that 120,000 Afghans have left the country so far this year.

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The item timed at 7:35 p.m. has been corrected to reflect that more people crossed in October than in the whole of 2014, following clarification issued by UNHCR.