The Latest: Sweden: Border control to prevent illegal stays

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2015 4:03 PM
The Latest: Sweden: Border control to prevent illegal stays

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The latest about the flow of people traveling across Europe in search of a better life. All times local.

11:05 p.m.

Swedish officials say the introduction of temporary border controls will help it register new arrivals and prevent people from staying in the country illegally.

Fredrik Bengtsson, spokesman for the Swedish Migration Agency, says the agency is currently picking up people by bus at the border and driving them to its offices, but "once they get there quite a lot don't enter and get registered but disappear."

Bengtsson said it is too early to say whether the number of migrants arriving in the Scandinavian country will go down and added it could even increase, if people who would otherwise have traveled to Norway and Finland decide to apply for asylum in Sweden instead.

Sweden announced earlier Wednesday it would introduce temporary border controls from noon local time Thursday until Nov. 21 to stem the large influx of migrants.

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9:50 p.m.

Sweden's interior minister says the move to introduce temporary border controls is a way to "bring order" to the Swedish asylum system while also sending a signal to the European Union.

Anders Ygeman said Wednesday that "Sweden is the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for the refugee crisis" and that "the other countries also have to take their responsibility."

It wasn't immediately clear whether the move would allow Sweden to turn people away at the border. But it would hinder people from transiting through the country to reach neighboring Finland and Norway.

Ygeman said migrants arriving at the border would have to decide whether to apply for asylum in Sweden or to turn back around.

Most migrants are coming to Sweden by boat from Germany or across the Oresund bridge from Denmark.

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9:30 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says "maximal" political and diplomatic pressure should be applied on the "unscrupulous leaders" of Eritrea, whose citizens have been fleeing in droves for years to Europe.

Hollande said Eritrea "is becoming empty of its own population." He spoke Wednesday at a European Union-African summit on migrants in Malta.

Eritreans are fleeing what human rights watchdogs call an oppressive state, where jailing can last indefinitely and conscription can last years. They constitute one of the largest groups from Africa seeking asylum in Europe. Tens of thousands have escaped to Europe, many making perilous sailings in smugglers' boats across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Hollande said that Europe's dealings with Eritrea require "a job to be done which is political, and which needs a strict and demanding diplomacy."

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9:15 p.m.

The head of the African Union has warned against setting up migrant reception centers in Africa where people are held until they can be granted asylum or be sent home.

AU chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said Wednesday that such facilities "whatever we call them, will become de-facto detention centers."

She said that women and children in particular would be in danger if held there.

Her remarks came during a summit of European Union and African leaders, where the EU is looking to halt the flow of people coming from Africa and send those already in Europe back more quickly.

Zuma also hit out at some European countries that "have taken a fortress approach" to migration.

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9:10 p.m.

Sweden says it will introduce temporary border controls to stem the flow of migrants into the Scandinavian country.

Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said the border controls will be introduced at noon Thursday local time and last initially for ten days until Nov. 21.

Sweden says migration authorities are overstretched and nearly 200,000 asylum-seekers are expected this year. Relative to population size — Sweden has 9.7 million people — no other EU country comes close.

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8:50 p.m.

Tensions are mounting on the Slovenia-Croatia border after Slovenia started building a fence on disputed territory to stem an influx of migrants.

AP journalists saw Croatian police demand that Slovenia take down a section of the fence on Wednesday.

Croatian special forces have arrived at the Harmica border crossing on the Croatian side, while Slovenian special police with long barrel weapons are standing on the Slovenian side. A helicopter is flying above illuminating the area with a spotlight.

Croatia authorities are claiming that the Slovenian fence has entered Croatian territory in seven locations and want it removed.

Slovenia denies any part of the fence is on Croatian soil. Both countries are locked in a dispute over certain parts of their territory after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

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8:30 p.m.

The European Union is renewing calls for member countries to contribute hundreds of millions of euros to a fund to help African nations better manage migration given the tepid response so far.

The European Commission has put 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion) into the "trust fund" and wants EU nations to match that figure.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that "we do think that 1.8 billion is not enough."

He said that 25 member states had only offered "small amounts" so far.

Juncker's appeal came at a migration summit of EU and African leaders on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Ethiopia signed a migration deal with the EU on Wednesday, securing access to the fund.

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8:20 p.m.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec has informed Austrian authorities that the razor-wire fence his country is erecting along the border with Croatia to stem the flow of migrants will be 80 kilometers (50 miles) long, according to the Austrian Press Agency.

Slovenia started erecting the fence Wednesday morning on two locations along its 670-kilometer (400-mile) border with Croatia.

Erjavec explained the fence will direct the migrants toward registration centers, Josef Ostermayer, senior deputy to Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, told reporters after the meeting in Vienna.

Ostermayer said fences don't stop migrants, who always find alternative routes.

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7:20 p.m.

The European Union and Ethiopia have cut a deal to tackle migration and human smuggling.

The deal was signed Wednesday as EU and African leaders met in Malta looking for ways to stop the flow of people looking for work in Europe.

Under the agreement, Ethiopia would have access to money from a 1.8 billion euro ($1.9 billion) trust fund to help African nations better manage migration.

Ethiopia is a major hub for people who are trying to reach Europe. It is also home to more than 700,000 refugees from other countries.

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4:25 p.m.

Polish and Czech officials say that the Czech Republic will represent Poland at an informal European Union summit on Thursday on migration, the result of domestic political infighting in Poland.

Poland's outgoing centrist prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, cannot attend the EU summit because she and her government must resign the same day at the swearing-in of the newly elected parliament.

Poland's conservative president, Andrzej Duda, set the day for parliament's first sitting for Thursday, preventing Kopacz from joining other heads of government and sparking accusations that Duda is trying to keep Poland from playing a constructive role in the talks on migration.

Duda won the presidency in May, representing the populist and Euroskeptic Law and Justice party, which also won a parliamentary majority in an election Oct. 25.

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2:40 p.m.

Austria's Interior Ministry says it expects a record number of 95,000 asylum applications this year.

The forecast seen Wednesday on the ministry website exceeds ministry estimates of 80,000 for all of 2015 published just a few weeks ago and is more than double the previous high of 39,854 in 2002.

Austria initially was mostly a transit country for those wanting to go to Germany, Sweden and other destinations further. But the new numbers reflect that it now is increasingly a final destination for many refugees seeking safety and a new life.

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2:30 p.m.

A leading politician in the Italian Parliament is decrying as "cynical and inhumane" the erecting of fences between European Union countries to try to keep out migrants.

Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies, also said Wednesday that Europe needs to "implement protection, not defense" measures like the razor-wire fence Italy's neighbor to the east, Slovenia, began putting up along its border with Croatia.

Speaking in Florence, Boldrini expressed dismay eastern European countries, which lived through dictatorship and repression, generating their own waves of refugees, who think they can resolve Europe's current immigration crisis "with barbed wire and walls."

Italy is participating in an EU summit later Wednesday in Malta discussing ways to discourage economic migrants from coming and safer ways to send them back home.

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1:30 p.m.

The European Union wants to issue documents to Africans who are refused asylum to ease their return back to countries they left or traveled through.

The controversial "laissez passer" plan has been criticized by diplomats and non-governmental organizations as being tantamount to Europe telling African countries who they should accept. It will be discussed later Wednesday by European and African leaders at a migration summit in Malta.

In a draft of the summit action plan, obtained by The Associated Press, the leaders pledge to "enhance recognition of the EU laissez passer."

But the African Union's ambassador to the EU, Ajay Bramdeo, has told migration experts the proposed document "is unheard-of in international law."

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12:45 p.m.

Denmark's prime minister says the country will tighten its immigration rules to stem a recent increase in people seeking asylum.

Unlike neighbors Germany and Sweden, Denmark has not seen dramatic numbers of migrants this year, which Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said shows his government's strict immigration policies are working.

However, he told reporters Wednesday that further restrictions are needed after 3,600 people applied for asylum in Denmark in October.

The new measures include reducing benefits for asylum-seekers, shortening residence permits for those allowed to stay and stepping up efforts to deport those who are not.

The center-right leader says "we are not going to have the chaotic situation in Denmark that we have seen in other countries."

Denmark has received about 10,000 asylum-seekers this year while Sweden received a similar number just last week.

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12:35 p.m.

Norwegian news agency NTB says 162 asylum-seekers have been evacuated after a refugee shelter in southern Norway caught on fire.

No one was injured in the blaze, which started just before 2 a.m. Wednesday in Hemsedal. NTB says the kitchen and administrative section of the facility burned to the ground.

Police said it was too early to speculate on the cause.

In neighboring Sweden, more than a dozen refugee shelters have been damaged or destroyed in recent weeks in a wave of suspected arson attacks.

Norway's security service PST has said the sharp rise in asylum-seekers could increase the threat from right-wing extremists.

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11:55 a.m.

Dozens of asylum-seekers in a Czech reception center are on hunger strike to protest their detention and a possible return to their country of origin.

Media say about 44 people, mostly from Iraq, are refusing to eat in the Drahonice facility located west of Prague.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told Czech public radio that they started their protest after some 40 other migrants were returned from the center to another European country.

In a statement sent through Mikulas Vymetal, a Protestant priest, to the local CTK news agency, the asylum-seekers complain they've been detained too long and say they would rather die than return home.

There are currently more than 140 people in the center.

Czech authorities say hunger strikes are not rare in the migrant centers.

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11:30 a.m.

Thousands of refugees and other migrants are gathered at Greece's border with Macedonia waiting to continue their journey north toward more prosperous European Union countries, as the surge of people heading to the Greek mainland from the eastern Aegean islands continues following the end of a ferry strike last week.

About 4,000 people were waiting to cross at 6 a.m. Wednesday, with about half in a camp in the Idomeni border area and the rest in 40 buses. Macedonian border police were allowing groups of 50 people to cross roughly every 10-15 minutes.

"My journey from Syria to Greece took 10 days and it was relatively good. I hope it continues this way until I reach Germany," said 22-year-old Yazan Alouf as he waited with friends to cross the border.

Greek police said about 6,200 people had crossed from Tuesday morning until Wednesday morning.

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10:50 a.m.

Slovenia has started erecting a barbed-wire fence on the border with Croatia to prevent uncontrolled entry of migrants into the already overwhelmed Alpine state.

A convoy of army trucks carrying barbed wire arrived early Wednesday in Veliki Obrez, at the Slovenian border with Croatia. Soldiers begun unwinding the wire and stretching it along the Slovenian side of the river Sutla that divides the two countries.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar said a day earlier that his country expects about 30,000 new migrants to reach Slovenian borders.

The government fears that if neighboring Austria restricts their flow further along their route, the people stranded in Slovenia would be too many to handle.

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9:40 a.m.

Turkey's state-run agency says seven children are among the 14 migrants who drowned when their boat sank off the northern Turkish Aegean coast.

Anadolu Agency says Turkish Coast Guard divers are searching the waters for more possible victims.

The boat carrying the migrants sank off the coast of Ayvacik early on Wednesday on its way to the Greek island of Lesbos. The migrants' nationalities were not immediately known.

More than half a million migrants have crossed the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands from Turkey so far this year. Hundreds have died during the crossing.

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9:20 a.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says 14 migrants drowned when their boat sank off the Turkish northern Aegean coast of Ayvacik.

The Anadolu Agency says 27 other migrants were rescued by Turkish coast guards.

Ayvacik is a main crossing point to the Greek island of Lesbos.