The Latest: EU agency to monitor Greece-Albania border

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2015 2:42 PM
The Latest: EU agency to monitor Greece-Albania border

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest on the flow of tens of thousands of people trekking to Europe in search of a new life. All times local.

8:20 p.m.

The European Union border protection agency Frontex says it will deploy forces along Greece's border with neighboring Albania.

Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri on Friday told Albanian television station Top Channel the agency wants to prevent migrants from attempting to reach Western Europe by traveling through Albania.

That route isn't used at the moment by the large number of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Tirana says, however, it has made preparations to shelter refugees should they begin arriving during the winter.

Leggeri said there was no plan for a camp in Albania as "that could be a burden on the countries in the region and it is not in line with the union's decisions for the distribution of the emigrants from Greece to the other EU countries."

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8:20 p.m.

Germany's Interior Ministry wants to give many Syrians arriving in the country a form of protection that wouldn't allow them to bring relatives for two years, according to an agreement by government leaders this week.

The ministry said Friday that Syrians who don't present authorities with direct evidence of individual persecution but are fleeing the civil war in general should be given "subsidiary protection," something that falls short of full asylum status but is granted to people who face serious risks in their homeland. While people with full asylum status get a three-year residence permit, those with "subsidiary protection" get a renewable one-year permit.

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners agreed that people with that status shouldn't be able to bring relatives to Germany for two years.

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5:15 p.m.

Germany's interior minister has urged Albanians to stop going to his country to seek political asylum as their claims are considered groundless and will be rejected.

Thomas de Maiziere expressed "great concern" over the fact that about 50,000 Albanians have asked for asylum in Germany this year, coming second only to Syrian refugees.

During a visit to Albania Friday, he said Albanians migrate to Germany to seek jobs and improve their living standards.

De Maiziere said all requests would be denied in a faster, three-week process, after Albania was included in a list of safe countries.

"There is no reason for Albanians to ask for political asylum," he said." Their country is democratic."

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4:45 p.m.

Greek authorities say the bodies of five more migrants have been found in the eastern Aegean Sea, which hundreds of thousands have crossed in frail boats this year seeking a better life in Europe.

The coast guard said Friday that three men and a woman were found dead over the past two days in the sea off Lesbos. The eastern island is where most of the migrants head from the nearby Turkish coast, paying large sums to smugglers for a berth on overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels.

The body of another man was found Thursday off the islet of Agathonissi.

Well over half a million people have reached the Greek islands so far this year — a record number of arrivals — and the journey has proved fatal for hundreds.

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3:35 p.m.

The Spanish government said Friday it expects a first group of 19 refugees to arrive in Madrid on Sunday from Italy as part of a European Union relocation program.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told reporters the group comprised mostly Eritreans and included many women. She said the 19 are part of a group of 50 refugees due to come for relocation.

She added that the government has approved plans for the resettlement in Spain this year of 854 refugees in countries bordering Syria.

She said this is part of plans for Spain to accept 1,449 refugees over the next two years under the EU resettlement program.

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1:35 p.m.

France is busing asylum-seekers from elsewhere in Europe to small towns in the French heartland, after months of criticism that French authorities weren't doing their share to take in refugees and other migrants pouring into Europe this year.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 18 men and one woman who fled Eritrea are being bused Friday from Italy to the Loire Valley region in western France. They are among 200 people France is taking from Italy and Greece this month, 300 next month and 400 in January, the statement said.

France has agreed to take in 30,000 refugees from around Europe as part of EU-wide agreements — compared with hundreds of thousands in neighboring Germany, and 4 million Syrian refugees taken in by Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

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12:20 p.m.

They call her Nina, but no one knows her real name, where she came from or what language she speaks.

Authorities have been struggling to find out the identity of a small girl found in park in a Croatian town a month ago, believed to be a refugee who got lost in a tide of people passing through the country toward Western Europe.

Officials have invited media to take pictures of the girl, who is about three years old, in the capital of Zagreb to help locate her parents. She was found in the central town of Velika Gorica.

Croatia's Minister of Family Milanka Opacic says "we have been unable to figure out what language the child speaks."

More than 330,000 asylum-seekers have entered Croatia since mid-September, many of them families with small children.

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11:55 a.m.

Thousands of refugees and other migrants are heading to the Greek mainland from the eastern Aegean islands after the country's seamen's union called off rolling 48-hour ferry strikes.

The strike, which began Monday, had stranded an estimated 25,000 people on the islands. Ferries began operating again Friday morning.

Several ships dedicated to refugees set sail from the islands of Lesbos and Chios, while others were taking ships from other islands on the regular passenger ferry service.

The ferries are heading to Greece's main port of Piraeus near Athens and the northern port cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala.

More than 600,000 people have reached Greece from Turkey so far this year. The vast majority don't want to stay, and head north through the Balkans to other, more prosperous European Union countries.

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11:50 a.m.

Police say they have arrested two Albanians and a Turk on smuggling charges for arranging for Turkish citizens to get into European Union countries without visas through Albania.

Police said in a statement Friday that the three were arrested at Tirana airport. They are accused of helping Turkish citizens, who need no visa to enter Albania, move on to Montenegro, Serbia and Hungary as a means of making their way to other EU countries.

They allegedly charged 3,600 euros ($3,900) per person. The three face up to 10 years' imprisonment if found guilty.

Albania is not on the route of refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries heading to the European Union. The main route is from Turkey to Greek islands, then north through Macedonia and Serbia toward other EU nations.

The government says, however, it has made preparations to shelter refugees should they begin arriving in Albania during the winter.

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11:30 a.m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has invited mayors of eastern Aegean islands bearing the brunt of the current refugee influx to Athens for an emergency meeting on how to deal with the crisis.

The meeting, scheduled for midday Friday, was also to be attended by the north and south Aegean regional governors as well as mayors and religious officials from the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios, and government officials.

Greece is the main gateway into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty at home. The vast majority arrive after a short but dangerous sea journey to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast and then head to the mainland and on to more prosperous northern EU countries through the Balkans.

Hundreds have drowned, including many children, when their overcrowded and unseaworthy boats have sunk or capsized.