The Latest: Turkey plans visas for Syrians from 3rd nations

AP News
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Posted: Dec 17, 2015 5:34 PM
The Latest: Turkey plans visas for Syrians from 3rd nations

BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest news on the mass movement of asylum-seekers and migrants to Europe, including developments from an EU summit where leaders are discussing the issue. All times local.

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11:30 p.m.

Syrians arriving in Turkey from third countries will need visas starting next month, as Turkey looks to slow the flow of migrants to Europe.

A document drawn up by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu seen by The Associated Press on Thursday said that "visa requirements for Syrian citizens will be introduced as of Jan. 8."

It said the move "will have a direct impact on reducing irregular crossings of groups holding Syrian passports who use sea or air routes from third countries to reach our countries."

The document was to be used in discussions between Davutoglu and a small group of European Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A Turkish official separately confirmed the visa move.

By Lorne Cook.

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9:50 p.m.

The head of the International Organization for Migration is calling on the world to end the "toxic public narrative" that has wrapped an unprecedented refugee and migrant crisis in fears about security.

William Lacy Swing spoke with The Associated Press before International Migrants Day on Friday. He criticized the "dearth of political leadership and courage on this issue" as countries in Europe and elsewhere debate proposals to make it more difficult for refugees to enter.

The U.N. says some 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes in recent years.

Swing also warns about what he calls the "refugee amnesia" in which people forget that they or their ancestors were once refugees or migrants themselves.

He says migration should be seen as a long-term reality to be managed.

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2:25 p.m.

Four Central European nations are ready to help Macedonia cope with the wave of migrants coming to Europe.

Macedonia, a non-EU member state, is part of the so-called Balkans route that refugees have been using on their way to rich Western countries.

Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky says his country, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — known as the Visegrad Group — will coordinate their assistance to Macedonia.

Stropnicky, speaking at meeting of Visegrad Group officials, said the Czech Republic alone will deploy up to 50 police officers to Macedonia, a move the government is expected to approve next week. Stropnicky said the Czech army would also send requested materials, including tents and vehicles.

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2:05 p.m.

Estonia says it will accept 1,317 immigrants in 2016, a quota that doesn't include the 550 migrants that the European Union member has agreed to accept under bloc's relocation plan.

Interior Minister Hanno Pevkur says the figure only applies to non-EU citizens seeking work permits, among others, and represents exactly 0.1 percent of Estonia's population of 1.3 million.

Pevkur said Thursday the Baltic country wants migrants "ready to give their input to the development of Estonian society."

However, some Estonian companies have said the annual number of residence permits of about 1,300 has been too low to satisfy their needs for experts. In recent years, Indian engineers have shown growing interest to work in Estonia's rapidly growing IT-sector.

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1:05 p.m.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg says the last six months of 2015 have been "a demanding half-year for Norway, Europe and the world" because of the migrant influx.

Solberg says "the most challenging issue" in that time had been the influx of migrants.

She told an end-of-year news conference on Thursday that "it was demanding to deal with a situation where the numbers kept growing." She added that the situation "is currently under control, but that does not mean it will not persist."

Most migrants have headed for Germany and Sweden, while Norway has received more than 30,000 asylum-seekers, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea. The bulk entered the Scandinavian country through Sweden, but for a while nearly 4,000 refugees entered via Russia by using a remote Arctic crossing closed to pedestrians.

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11:35 a.m.

European Union leaders are converging on Brussels for an end-of-year summit focused on tackling Europe's migrant crisis and other issues.

On the first day of their two-day summit starting Thursday, EU leaders will examine a controversial plan from the European Commission to set up a new border and coast guard agency with powers to unilaterally deploy guards to countries in trouble.

The plan appears likely to face opposition by southern European nations hardest hit by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe this year, including Greece and Italy.