The Latest: Cyprus crews rescue 26 people from boat

AP News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2015 8:14 PM
The Latest: Cyprus crews rescue 26 people from boat

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The latest as tens of thousands of people flood into Europe in search of a new life. All times local.

1:00 a.m.

Cyprus' defense minister says crews have rescued 26 people believed to be asylum seekers after receiving a distress call from a boat that was spotted about seven miles (11 kilometers) off the southeastern tip of the east Mediterranean island.

Christoforos Fokaides said authorities believe all those who were aboard the boat late Tuesday have been picked up. A sweep of the area by the German destroyer Hyane didn't locate anyone in the water.

Fokaides said rough weather conditions hampered the rescue operation mounted by helicopter and patrol boat crews.

He said one small child was taken to a hospital in serious condition, suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

All 26 of those rescued, half of whom are children, are receiving medical care. Their boat is believed to have set sail from Tripoli, Lebanon, on Oct. 30.

Thousands of people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

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11:00 p.m.

Greek authorities say four more people have drowned off the eastern island of Lesbos, after an accident involving a boat with nearly 50 migrants on board who had crossed over from nearby Turkey.

The coast guard said Tuesday that about 40 people were saved by a patrol boat, while a man, two women and a child were later rescued from the sea. The dead were identified as two men and two children. No others were listed as missing.

Lesbos is Europe's main landing point for a flood of refugees and other migrants, mostly from the Middle East, who arrive in thousands daily seeking a better life in the continent.

Nearly 100 people have drowned over the past six days, in overcrowded boats provided at a high charge by smuggling gangs.

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9:40 p.m.

Greek authorities say three adults and a child are missing in the sea off the eastern island of Lesbos after an accident involving a boat with more than 40 migrants on board.

The coast guard said Tuesday that about 40 people were saved by a patrol boat, while a man and two babies were later rescued from the sea and taken to hospital in serious condition.

Lesbos is Europe's main landing point for a flood of refugees and economic migrants, mostly from the Middle East, who arrive in thousands daily via Turkey seeking a better life in the continent.

About 90 people have drowned over the past six days in overcrowded boats provided at a high charge by smuggling gangs.

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8:40 p.m.

A Cypriot official says a rescue operation is underway to save people from a small boat that ran into trouble seven miles (11 kilometers) off the southeastern tip of the Mediterranean island.

The official said three helicopters are plucking people out of the water late Tuesday and that strong winds lashing the area are making the operation difficult.

The official at Cyprus' Joint Rescue Coordination Center said eight rescued people been taken to a local hospital and a second helicopter was on its way there with more people.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity according to the Center's rules, couldn't say how many people had been aboard the boat or how many were in the water.

Thousands of people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

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8:10 p.m.

Austria's president says his country doesn't want "new borders" erected inside the European Union in order to control the influx of refugees fleeing war in Syria.

President Heinz Fischer says Austria agrees that the EU's external borders need to be better monitored and protected but says the 28-nation bloc mustn't "come back to a time when Iron Curtains" separated European countries.

Speaking after talks Tuesday with the Cypriot president, Fischer said "hundreds of thousands" of refugees have been entering Austria.

He said Austria is working with Germany to "share the burden" of receiving the refugees at a ratio that echoes the two nations' populations of 8 million and 80 million respectively.

Austria is at the forefront of those criticizing Hungary's decision to build a border fence.

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7:50 p.m.

Aid groups have gotten a French court to acknowledge an emergency situation in a Calais migrant slum and enforce increased sanitation measures.

The court in Lille, the administrative center of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, has ruled that authorities have not been doing enough to respect the human rights of migrants and has given them a deadline to implement measures.

They have eight days to create 10 more water points, 50 outdoor toilets, refuse collection, cleaning programs, and creating points of access to the camp to allow emergency services in. They have 48 hours to identify all "isolated" minors in the camp.

Doctors of the World call the ruling a "first victory" to get "all these exiled women, men and children" basic help.

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7:15 p.m.

Slovenia's prime minister says his country will strengthen controls of its border with Croatia, possibly by erecting a fence, if migrants continue to stream into the Alpine nation in large numbers.

Miro Cerar said Tuesday Slovenia would not close down its borders, but would use "technical obstacles" to control the influx. He said this could include a border fence "if necessary."

Slovenia has repeatedly complained it is too small to handle thousands of refugees coming its way. Cerar said the country of 2 million does not have winter capacities for migrants.

He also said that if Germany and Austria limit the acceptance of migrants, Slovenia would have to act because it would face "an uncontrollable number of migrants."

Migrants turned to Slovenia last month after Hungary closed its border with Croatia.

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6:55 p.m.

European Union leaders will hold informal talks next week on the sidelines of a migration summit with African nations amid fears that the EU's passport free travel area could collapse.

The Schengen open border area is a pillar of free trade and travel in the 28-nation bloc, but some EU nations have reintroduced border controls to cope with the tens of thousands of people crossing in.

EU Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair the Nov. 12 meeting, says Tuesday that "we must do all we can to keep Schengen intact. So any initiative that may lead to the re-establishment of borders within Schengen should be withheld."

He added that "if we are to avoid the worst, we must speed up our actions" in solving Europe's migration crisis.

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6:40 p.m.

Europol says 29 suspects have been arrested during raids in Spain and Poland that targeted a Pakistani crime gang accused of smuggling Pakistanis into Europe and putting them to work under slave-like conditions in kebab restaurants.

The European Union police agency announced Tuesday that 365 Spanish and Polish police officers launched raids Oct. 24 and 25 at dozens of restaurants and homes, making arrests and seizing evidence, including equipment to forge travel documents.

An anti-smuggling team at Europol's headquarters in The Hague helped coordinate the operation.

Europol says migrants paid the gang around 14,000 euros ($15,300) for the trip to Europe, often crossing the Mediterranean in unseaworthy boats from Turkey to Greece or Libya to Italy.

It was not immediately clear how many migrants the gang smuggled in.

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5:20 p.m.

Finland's interior minister says increasing tensions between ethnic Finns and asylum-seekers is the biggest security threat facing the Nordic country.

Petteri Orpo warned Tuesday of a "growing risk" of violent attacks against asylum-seekers and among asylum-seekers, saying some have been refused refuge because of their participation in terror-linked organizations.

Security police chief Antti Pelttari says the threat of a terror attack is still "low" in the country of 5.5 million but that the agency has a watch-list of 300 people with suspected sympathies toward extreme Islamist ideology.

There have been several anti-immigrant protests in Finland and police have reported a few minor attacks or threats against asylum centers. No one has been hurt.

Immigration officials estimate that some 35,000 migrants will have arrived in the country by year-end — a tenfold increase on 2014.

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5:00 p.m.

Hungary's parliament has approved a resolution that rejects the European Union's plan to introduce a quota system to share refugees among member nations.

The approval Tuesday by lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, its Christian Democrat coalition partners and the far-right Jobbik party paves the way for the government to launch legal action against the EU to avoid having to take part in the scheme.

The government said earlier it would wait for parliament to weigh in on the issue before deciding on a possible lawsuit. Neighboring Slovakia is considering similar steps.

Hungary grants asylum to a few hundred refugees a year and rejects economic migrants. It has built fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia which has diverted migrants toward Slovenia in their efforts to reach Germany and other, richer EU countries.

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3:50 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her most prominent domestic critic of recent weeks have put on a show of unity, appearing together to stress their joint aim to pare back the migrant influx.

Horst Seehofer, Bavaria's governor and leader of the Bavarian branch of Merkel's conservative bloc, has publicly criticized Merkel's welcoming approach to refugees for weeks, demanding federal government action.

But Merkel and the Christian Social Union leader buried the hatchet in recent days and are pressing their partners in Germany's governing coalition, the center-left Social Democrats, to agree to new measures.

During a joint appearance with Seehofer before a meeting of lawmakers Tuesday, Merkel said the conservatives want to "order and steer the refugee flow, fight the causes of flight and so reduce the number of refugees."

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1 p.m.

Germany's vice chancellor is denouncing as "silly" an argument within Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition over whether to set up "transit zones" to weed out near the country's borders migrants with no realistic asylum claim.

Merkel's conservative bloc is pushing hard for the idea, details of which remain unclear, but Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's Social Democrats have opposed it. They argue the plan would effectively entail interning large numbers of people and be impractical.

Gabriel said Tuesday that an influx of people from Balkan countries considered safe has largely dried up and it's "relatively silly" to argue over something that would be useful for a tiny proportion of migrants.

He said officials should instead discuss questions such as how to dissuade people from countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan from coming.

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12:50 p.m.

Slovakia is sending a unit of 20 police officers to Slovenia to help the tiny Alpine nation protect the external border of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone amid a migrant influx.

Tuesday's announcement by Prime Minister Robert Fico comes a day after another EU member, the Czech Republic, made the same decision.

Fico says the officers might travel to Slovenia as soon as Friday.

Slovakian Interior Minister Robert Kalinak also says his country is forming a new unit of 300 police officers who will be ready to be deployed to other EU nations to help protect the EU's outer borders.

Slovakia already sent 50 police officers to help Hungary.

Slovenia has said its ability to deal with the influx has been stretched to the limit with thousands of migrants crossing its territory in hopes of reaching Western Europe.

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12:35 p.m.

The secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says the sheer scale of the refugee influx to Europe has overwhelmed authorities, and acknowledged more must be done.

During a visit on Tuesday to Greece, the country that has borne the brunt of new arrivals, Elhadj As Sy said the refugee numbers hadn't been predicted. IFRC figures Tuesday show 600,000 people reached Greece so far this year.

"What we are facing is much more than what was expected," As Sy said after meeting Greek migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas. "And that's why everybody is overwhelmed."

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12:25 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says that Europe's refugee crisis won't be solved at the German-Austrian border and is warning other countries that they shouldn't assume they won't be affected.

Merkel renewed her call on Tuesday for a fair distribution of refugees around Europe. Germany has taken by far the most refugees so far, with Sweden and Austria also receiving many, but several other European Union countries have been reluctant to make any significant contribution.

Merkel, who faces pressure at home to reduce the influx, said: "I am firmly convinced that we will not manage this challenge at the German-Austrian border." She added: "Those in Europe who think today that they are not affected by this will be affected in some way tomorrow, if only through the unity of Europe being questioned."

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12:20 p.m.

An official says recently-arrived migrants housed at a British army base on Cyprus had set fire to two tents, but that the blaze was put out quickly.

British Bases spokeswoman Connie Pierce said Tuesday the situation is now calm following Monday's incident. She gave no reason for the fire.

Pierce said there had been "a series of incidents" at the facility, but that authorities won't "be going into specific detail."

She said the 114 people, who arrived by boat at a British air base on Cyprus last month, have food, shelter, privacy and communications and that U.N. staff say the facility "exceeds the standard of comparable setups."

Pierce repeated that the British government won't allow a new migrant route to open up to the U.K. through its two Cyprus bases.

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12 p.m.

Serbia and Croatia have launched a direct train transfer of migrants from one country to another so asylum seekers no longer have to wait long hours outside in the cold.

Officials say that the first train carrying about 1,000 migrants left Tuesday morning from the Serbian town of Sid toward Slavonski Brod, Croatia, where authorities have set up a winter camp.

The direct train link was agreed last month after thousands of people, most of whom were families with small children, were forced to spent entire nights at a muddy border passage waiting to cross from Serbia to Croatia.

Croatian police say more than 300,000 people have passed through the country since mid-September. Most migrants want to reach wealthy nations of Western Europe, such as Germany or Sweden.