The Latest: Attackers torch refugee center in Prague

AP News
Posted: Feb 06, 2016 3:17 PM
The Latest: Attackers torch refugee center in Prague

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The Latest on the flow of thousands of would-be refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere to Europe (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

Czech police say unknown attackers have set a refugee center on fire in the Czech capital of Prague, injuring one person.

Spokeswoman Iveta Martinkova says about 20 people attacked the Klinika center in Prague's No. 3 district with Molotov cocktails Saturday about 7:30 p.m. She says it's not clear who was behind the attack and police are investigating.

The attack took place just hours after thousands of people rallied in Prague against Muslims and immigration.


7:50 p.m.

A French official says the coast guard has rescued four migrants who were attempting to get from the northern French city of Dunkirk across the English Channel to Britain in a small fishing boat.

Pas-de-Calais spokesman Gaetan Genel said a fifth person who set off in the boat Saturday managed to swim to shore after the vehicle's motor malfunctioned. Genel said all five were Iranians and have been taken to a local Calais hospital.

Dunkirk is at least 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Britain by sea. Genel said the journey was particularly perilous because the sea was rough amid strong winds Saturday and there was a large amount of maritime traffic in the area.


7 p.m.

Police in Calais have dispersed a rowdy anti-migrant protest with tear gas after clashes with protesters and detained several far-right demonstrators.

Around 150 militants from the anti-Islam, anti-immigration group PEDIGA gathered Saturday at the northern French city chanting slogans like: "We must not let Calais die!"

Calais has been a focal point for migrants who want to slip into Britain via the Channel Tunnel. Several thousand have been living there in slums.

The protesters Saturday had ignored a ruling by the local prefect to ban such demonstrations. One of them, former soldier Christian Piquemal, said he was "shocked by the behavior of police forces."


4:25 p.m.

Thousands of Czechs are rallying in the Czech capital of Prague, some against the influx of refugees and others in support of them. Some opposing protesters clashed briefly before police separated them.

The main anti-migrant rally Saturday, part of Europe-wide protests in cooperation with Germany's anti-Islam, anti-immigrant group PEGIDA, is taking place in front of Prague Castle, the presidency seat. Czech President Milos Zeman is known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Martin Konvicka, a leader of the anti-Muslim movement, is calling the influx of refugees an "invasion" that poses a "huge threat for us all."

Two other anti-migrant groups are rallying in Prague and another in the second-largest Czech city of Brno. Two demonstrations in favor of immigration are also going on in Prague.


4 p.m.

Riot police have clashed with demonstrators in Amsterdam as supporters of the anti-Islam, anti-migrant group PEGIDA tried to hold their first protest in the Dutch capital as part of a series of demonstrations in Europe.

A square near Amsterdam city hall that had been earmarked for the PEGIDA demonstration had to be shut down shortly before the gathering as police and explosives experts examined what police called a "suspect package."

Only about 200 PEGIDA supporters were present, outnumbered by police and left-wing demonstrators who shouted, "Refugees are welcome, fascists are not!"

Dutch riot police detained several people as officers on horseback intervened to separate the two groups of demonstrators.


2:30 p.m.

The European Union has called on Turkey to open its borders to thousands of Syrians who are fleeing fierce government offensives and intense Russian airstrikes.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says "the support that the EU is providing to Turkey, among others, is aimed exactly at guaranteeing" that Ankara can protect and host people that are seeking asylum.

EU foreign ministers met with their Turkish counterpart for informal talks in Amsterdam on Saturday .

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the government was keeping "this open border policy for these people fleeing from the aggression of the regime as well as air strikes of Russia."

"We need to keep this open door policy for them. We have received already more than 5,000 of them. Another 50-55,000 of them are on the way and we cannot leave them there."


1:55 p.m.

A senior government official says Turkey is caring for some 30-35,000 displaced Syrians on the Syrian side of the border and has no immediate plans to let them in.

Governor Suleyman Tapsiz of the border province of Kilis said Saturday Turkey had the ability to care for the Syrians inside Syria for the time being but had made preparations to allow them in in the event of an "extraordinary crisis." He did not elaborate.

Thousands of Syrians rushed toward the Turkish border Friday, fleeing fierce government offensives and intense Russian airstrikes. Turkey kept its Oncupinar border crossing, opposite Syria's Bab al-Salam, closed for a second day Saturday and aid workers said the refugees were being directed to displaced people's camps near the border.

Tapsiz said an estimated that 70,000 more Syrian could arrive at the border if the Russian and Syrian strikes don't end.

Turkey is already home to 2.5 million Syrian refugees


12:55 p.m.

Six asylum-seekers have arrived in Latvia, the first of 531 the nation has agreed to accept as part of the European Union's relocation scheme.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Ilze Petersone-Godmane says the two families of two adults and one child each "have expressed willingness to learn Latvian and integrate" in this Baltic country of nearly 2 million inhabitants.

Petersone-Godmane told Latvian Public Broadcasting Saturday the families had wanted to come to the country.

The Baltic News Service agency said the families from Eritrea and Syria arrived late Friday. They were taken to a refugee center near Riga, the capital, where they had their fingerprints taken and their asylum request was filed.


12:10 p.m.

Turkey kept its border with Syria closed for a second day but has let in more than a dozen Syrians who were injured in bombings around Syria's largest city of Aleppo.

Thousands of Syrians rushed toward the Turkish border Friday, fleeing fierce government offensives and intense Russian airstrikes.

Turkey has promised humanitarian help for the displaced civilians, including food and shelter, but it did not say whether it would let them cross into the country. Turkey is already burdened with some 2.5 million refugees from Syria.

The border crossing of Bab al-Salam — main crossing point for refugees and humanitarian aid — remained closed Saturday.

Turkish aid officials said Syrians who has massed at the border were being directed toward a displaced peoples' camp near the border crossing.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said 15 Syrians injured in bombings near Aleppo crossed into Turkey through the border gate late on Friday.


11:45 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says giving refuge to Iraqis and Syrians is part of her country's effort to counter the Islamic State group.

Merkel says Germany "considers its support for Iraq against the so-called IS not just as military but also as humanitarian, such as by taking in refugees."

Merkel has faced growing criticism in her country for allowing an unprecedented number of asylum seekers — almost 1.1 million last year — to enter Germany.

In her weekly video podcast Saturday, she urged refugees from Iraq and Syria to integrate in the country and learn German. But she also says refugees are being taught transferable skills that will help them rebuild their home countries when peace returns.

Merkel backed calls for better protection of the European Union's external borders.


11:40 a.m.

Turkish media say police have raided three factories producing unlicensed and poor-quality inflatable boats used to smuggle migrants to Greece.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said Saturday police seized 49 boats in the simultaneous raids in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir a day earlier.

The agency says the factories' owners were fined for unlicensed production of the boats. According to the private Dogan news agency, they faced administrative action that could lead to the closing the factories.

Police in Istanbul and elsewhere have in the past months conducted similar raids on workshops that produce defective lifejackets sold to migrants.

Turkey is under intense pressure to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. In November, it agreed to fight the smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. In return, the European Union pledged 3 billion euros ($3.25 billion) to help improve the refugees' conditions.

The International Organization for Migration says 284 migrants have died so far this year trying to make the dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece.


10 a.m.

European Union foreign ministers anxious to stem the flow of migrants coming through the Balkans are discussing with their counterparts from the region better ways to protect borders.

With Greece unable to control the thousands of migrants making the crossing from Turkey, some EU nations are now looking to help non-member Macedonia stop them at its southern border before they get to the European Schengen zone of border-free travel.

Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjarto says, "If Greece is not ready or able to protect the Schengen zone and doesn't accept any assistance from the EU then we need another defense line which is obviously Macedonia and Bulgaria."