The Latest: Czech police arrest 4 suspected smugglers

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2015 11:36 AM
The Latest: Czech police arrest 4 suspected smugglers

BERLIN (AP) — The latest on the mass movement of asylum seekers and others seeking refuge in Europe. All times local:

5:35 p.m.

Czech police says they have arrested four Czech nationals — three men and a woman — who have been sought by Belgium on suspicion of organizing a people-smuggling ring.

Police spokesman Pavel Hantak says the four, aged 43-53, are suspected of organizing the illegal transfer of the migrants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Syria to Britain.

Hantak says police authorities in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Britain and Germany have been cooperating on the case, which was coordinated by Europol.

He says police already have evidence the ring smuggled more than 100 migrants.

Police said Tuesday Czech courts now have to allow their extradition to Belgium where they face up to 20 years in prison.

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5:15 p.m.

The Swedish government has proposed tough measures to stem the flow of asylum-seekers into the country, including granting temporary residence permits to refugees who earlier were eligible for permanent residency.

The government says the proposals, in line with the minimum requirements under international conventions and EU legislation, would also limit the rights of family reunification and includes starting ID checks on all forms of transport arriving into Sweden.

The new measures, subject to parliamentary approval, are to be in force for three years and will not affect refugees who arrive under a U.N. quota system.

The government said Tuesday that more than 80,000 asylum-seekers arrived in the Scandinavian country during the past two months. Officials expect some 200,000 new arrivals by year-end — the highest number relative to population size in Europe.

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4:25 p.m.

Slovenia's finance minister says the small EU nation so far has spent more than 11 million euros ($11.7 million) on managing the flow of asylum seekers streaming toward Western Europe.

Dusan Mramor told lawmakers on Tuesday the figure included the costs of receiving, accommodating and feeding migrants, as well as the lease of tents and toilets, train and bus transportation.

Mramor says the figure refers to measures related to the 217,000 migrants who entered up until Nov. 15. Police say more than 260,000 had entered by Tuesday.

Mramor said the number does not include any costs by the local communities involved.

The Alpine nation of 2 million people has sought EU aid, insisting it cannot cope on its own.

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2:45 p.m.

An international migration watchdog has reported a "drastic" drop-off in arrivals of migrants across the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece over the weekend.

The International Organization of Migration said Tuesday that 155 migrants reached the Greek islands by sea on Sunday, calling that a "significant" decline in light of more than 100,000 arrivals in all of November.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman says an agency staffer in the region attributed the lower numbers to increased patrols by Turkish authorities in the last few days. Millman said up 3,000 entered Greece on Tuesday morning.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards also noted a recent decline in arrivals, but said it's too early to determine if that amounts to a trend.

IOM estimates more than 858,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year.

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11:20 a.m.

Police in northern Germany are investigating a fire at a multi-family home housing some asylum seekers as a likely arson.

Police told the dpa news agency Tuesday that the Monday night fire at the home in the town of Woldegk, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Berlin, appears to have been set in the basement. Thirty-five residents, including 10 asylum seekers, were forced to leave move into temporary shelters. A 76-year-old and a 14-year-old were treated for smoke inhalation.

Police say part of their investigation is determining whether there was a "political motivation" for setting the fire.

Two cars were set ablaze in the town 10 days ago in a case that has not yet been solved.