The Latest: Merkel still not prepared to set refugee limit

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 1:09 PM
The Latest: Merkel still not prepared to set refugee limit

BERLIN (AP) — The latest news as hundreds of thousands make their way across Europe in search of safety and a better life. All times local.

7:10 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is making clear that she still isn't prepared to name an upper limit to the number of refugees who can come to Germany, even as domestic political pressure to reduce the migrant flow mounts.

Merkel told ZDF television Friday that the only way to reduce the number of refugees who arrive is tackling the reasons why people are fleeing to Europe, "and they are outside Germany."

Merkel said: "I cannot unilaterally define upper limits ... what we in Germany cannot do is simply determine unilaterally who can come and who can't." She said the country must work "cooperatively" to solve the problem.

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4:30 p.m.

Sweden's decision to introduce border checks and suspend Europe's passport-free travel rules has had no noticeable effect on the flow of asylum-seekers.

The Swedish Migration Agency says 1,676 people applied for asylum in Sweden on Thursday, the day the border checks were established. That's slightly more than the 1,653 who applied on Wednesday.

About half of the asylum-seekers were Afghans, who have overtaken Syrians as the biggest group coming to Sweden.

Police aren't turning away people who want to seek asylum in Sweden, but the border checks require migrants to register with authorities and make it harder to use Sweden as a transit country to get to Norway and Finland.

More than 120,000 people have applied for asylum in Sweden this year, the highest number relative to population size in Europe.

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4:20 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the influx of refugees to Europe and the Syrian civil war will play a major role in talks at the Group of 20 summit starting Sunday.

Merkel said Friday that "we have to concentrate all our diplomatic efforts" in the face of the wave of migrants. She said refugees and Syria "will play a large role in many talks" at the G-20 meeting in Antalya, Turkey.

Merkel, who faces pressure to limit refugee arrivals in Germany, said in a video address to local politicians from her conservative bloc that Germany is doing its bit to secure freedom of movement in Europe's passport-free travel zone.

She said "if everyone seals themselves off, then Europe and the (passport-free) Schengen area will no longer be what they were."

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4:10 p.m.

Germany's top security official says that the influx of migrants hasn't led to a disproportionate increase in crime.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday that statistics gathered by authorities so far show that migrants are on average just as likely or unlikely to commit offenses as other parts of the German population. He added: "The lion's share of them do not commit crimes; they are seeking protection and peace in Germany."

De Maiziere said that people from some countries are "more conspicuous" in crime statistics than others, but those don't include refugees from Syria or Iraq — two of the biggest groups.

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3:05 p.m.

Four Central European countries say help is needed to enable Balkan countries to handle the influx of refugees.

Foreign ministers and senior diplomats from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia met Friday in the Czech capital their counterparts from the six Western Balkan states, as well Croatia, Slovenia and Britain.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek says: "the stabilization of the Balkans is necessary for the stability ... of the whole of Europe. It can't be destroyed by the migration (crisis). We have to help them to cope with the situation."

Tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty are traveling through the Balkans toward northern Europe.

The four countries also say they support the aspirations of the Western Balkan nations — Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia — to join the European Union, and are ready to assist them.

The diplomats signed a plan to create a fund that would help the Balkans nations with the migrants as well in other fields.

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2:35 p.m.

Austria says it is building a fence on a small stretch of its border with Slovenia, the latest country to erect a barrier in efforts to manage the flow of migrants.

Senior police official Gerhard Kogler says a chain-link fence 3.7 kilometers (just over 2 miles) long will be built at the Spielfeld crossing that has been the main entry for migrants from Slovenia over the past weeks.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said earlier Friday that Austria had decided not to build a 25-kilometer (15-mile) fence along a stretch of its border with its southern neighbor for now after Slovenian authorities asked it not to.

Mikl-Leitner says Austria reserves the option of building the longer barrier if Slovenian border measures prove inadequate in ensuring that the migrant flow into Austria is orderly.

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2:10 p.m.

An international migration monitoring and response agency says the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has slowed in the past week.

The International Organization for Migration on its website Friday presented figures from a day earlier that roughly 31,000 refugees or other migrants had entered Greece over the previous week, a 38 percent drop from a week earlier.

Spokesman Leonard Doyle cited concerns about the weather and growing awareness of the dangers of crossing the Aegean "in a small rubber dinghy."

Arrivals fell 25-30 percent in Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, along the route used to reach places like Germany and Sweden.

More than 810,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, and over 200,000 in October alone. Four out of five this year have crossed from Turkey to Greece.

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1:55 p.m.

Bulgaria's interior minister says she wants to refute allegations of police abuse of migrants crossing through the country.

Rumyana Bachvarova says "I hope that we can disprove these allegations." She adds, "This is not our policy. I would never allow such acts."

But, Bachvarova also acknowledged that the ministry is unable to control all officers in the field.

An Oxfam-funded report compiled by the Serbia-based Belgrade Center for Human Rights says dozens of people interviewed after crossing into Serbia from Bulgaria have spoken of police extortion, robbery, violence, threats of deportation and police-dog attacks.

Bulgaria has erected a fence and deployed troops on the border. An Afghan refugee died last month after being shot by Bulgarian police who said it was an accidental death from a ricochet.

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12:25 p.m.

Austria's government has for now put aside plans to build a fence along a stretch of its border with Slovenia but says it is keeping such an option open.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters Friday that Austria was acting on a request from the Slovenian government not to build a fence.

But she says Austria reserves the option of going ahead if Slovenian border security measures prove inadequate in ensuring that the migrant flow into Austria is orderly.

She says a fence could be erected within 48 hours if needed.

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12:20 p.m.

Amnesty International has called on G-20 nations to come up with a concrete plan to resettle refugees and finance their humanitarian needs ahead of a summit meeting in Turkey.

The human rights group on Friday accused G-20 states of sitting "on the sidelines" as the refugee crisis unfolded, and in some cases blocking refugees' access to safety.

It said the summit in Turkey — which is host to 2.2 million Syrian refugees — is a chance for G-20 countries to reverse what it said was their "shocking inaction."

The rights group singled out Russia and Saudi Arabia as wealthy nations who have "shown shockingly little compassion toward people fleeing brutal conflicts and persecution."

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12:10 p.m.

A report says migrants crossing Bulgaria on their way to Western Europe have complained of widespread abuse by the police including extortion, robbery, violence, threats of deportation and police-dog attacks.

The report funded by Oxfam and carried out by the Serbia-based Belgrade Center for Human Rights says more than 100 people interviewed after coming to Serbia from Bulgaria complained of abuse to the researchers.

The report released on Friday says one group spoke of a gun being held to a migrant's forehead, police taking their valuables, food and water and releasing dogs on them, after which seven people went missing.

In another incident two Afghan men said police had shot at their group, wounding two, while another Afghan man alleged he was pistol-whipped by Bulgaria's police.

Stefano Baldini, Oxfam Director for South East Europe, says "these testimonies present a consistent picture of alleged incidents in Bulgaria." He adds "the European Union has to intervene and take concrete action to protect basic human rights within its borders."

There was no immediate reaction from the authorities in Bulgaria.

An EU member bordering Turkey, Bulgaria has put up a fence on the border to stop the migrants from crossing. The country has stayed out of international focus as only hundreds pass through, compared with thousands going through Greece.

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10:20 a.m.

Slovenian police say that nearly 200,000 asylum seekers have entered since mid-October and the refugee flow continues unabated even as the country starts erecting a fence to stem the influx.

Police said Friday nearly 12,000 people came in on Thursday and Friday morning, bringing the total number of refugees passing through the country to a little over 196,000.

The country of 2 million has started putting up a razor-wire fence on the border with Croatia, which has fueled tensions between the two neighbors. Croatia says the fence has entered its territory, but Slovenia denies this.

Migrants and refugees switched to Slovenia as a gateway to Western Europe after Hungary sealed off its border with Croatia. Slovenia has repeatedly said the influx is too big to handle.

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9:55 a.m.

German police say three teenagers are being investigated on possible hate crime charges after allegedly attacking an 8-months-pregnant Somalian refugee.

Police said the 21-year-old woman was on her way back to a home for asylum-seekers in the town of Bad Belzig, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Berlin, on Wednesday afternoon when she was attacked by two boys, aged 14 and 15, and a 14-year-old girl, the dpa news agency reported.

They are alleged to have pulled away the sack of potatoes she was carrying on her head, thrown her to the ground and assaulted her.

Bild newspaper reported Friday the woman had to be treated in a hospital for her injuries, but no other information on her condition was immediately available.