The Latest: UN chief criticizes Europe's border restrictions

AP News
Posted: Feb 26, 2016 1:53 PM
The Latest: UN chief criticizes Europe's border restrictions

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

The United Nations secretary-general is expressing "great concern" at the growing number of border restrictions along the migrant trail through Europe.

Ban Ki-moon's spokesman says the U.N. chief is calling on all countries to keep their borders open and says he is "fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries."

Friday's statement notes in particular the new restrictions in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

Ban says the restrictions are "not in line" with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees because there is no determination of individuals' refugee status and protection needs.

8:05 p.m.

Greek officials say not one migrant has been allowed into northern neighbor Macedonia Friday, with nearly 5,000 people waiting at or near a border crossing.

A Macedonian Interior Ministry official said the reason for the temporary closure is that Serbia, the next country on the Balkan migration corridor that leads to wealthier central European countries, has stopped letting in migrants from Macedonia. The official said Serbia has not admitted any migrants for the past 40 hours.

Macedonian authorities let only about 150 people into the country Thursday.

More than 2,000 migrants are stuck in Macedonia, and over 20,000 in Greece.


7 p.m.

The German government says around 13 percent of the nearly 1.1 million people registered as asylum-seekers last year didn't appear at the reception centers they were supposed to go to.

Officials have long said the number of people who actually sought asylum was likely below 1 million but haven't publicly said how far below. The difference is accounted for by factors such as people being registered twice, going home, going to relatives or continuing on to other countries in Scandinavia and elsewhere.

The government said Friday it isn't possible to say how many people didn't seek asylum. Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth noted that a so-called "arrival ID" now being introduced aims to prevent such issues in future.


6:40 p.m.

Slovenian police say the Balkan states have agreed to allow about 580 migrants to pass through a day — far below the daily number of people seeking entry into the European Union.

Slovenia's STA news agency quoted police officials as saying Friday that the agreement on the daily limits was reached at a Feb. 18 meeting of Balkan police chiefs after "considering the quotas" acceptable to Austria.

Police say Croatia sent Slovenia almost 850 migrants Thursday "which is substantially above the limits agreed, so we brought the agreement to their attention."

The unilateral cuts in the flow of migrants have led to enormous pressures on Greece. Thousands of refugees are now stuck in Greece, which is still seeing about 2,000 migrants arriving daily from Turkey.


5:35 p.m.

The foreign ministers of European Union member countries that border the Mediterranean say unilateral actions by other members aiming to stem the huge influx of migrants into the continent won't solve the crisis that's putting the bloc's unity at stake.

Speaking on behalf of colleagues from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Greece, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides says decisions on how to deal with the migrant influx already made by the 28-member bloc cannot be implemented by some countries selectively.

Kasoulides said all EU member states need to act collectively and implement all decisions "if there is going to be a solution to the problem." He told a news conference Friday there would be "no unfairness to anybody" if all decisions are implemented together.


5:15 p.m.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says a newly deployed force in the Aegean Sea will not play a direct role in combating immigration.

Stoltenberg wrote in an article Friday that "NATO ships will not do the job of national coastguards in the Aegean. Their mission is not to stop or turn back those trying to cross into Europe."

He said that NATO will be there in a "support role" and that it's "added value" is that it "can facilitate closer cooperation and assist in greater exchange of information between Greece and Turkey."

Greek authorities had suggested that NATO would take a more active role, and help stop boats carrying migrants while still in Turkish waters.

Athens is under growing pressure to cope with a migrant crisis since Austria imposed strict transit restrictions for migrants last week and countries along the Balkan route from Greece northward followed suit.

At roughly 2,000, the number of daily arrivals to Greece has remained mostly unchanged since NATO began deploying ships in the Aegean two weeks ago.


4:25 p.m.

Greece's foreign minister is blasting other European Union member countries for imposing border restrictions on arriving migrants, saying that decisions made by all EU states on how to handle the ongoing crisis can't be overturned by a handful of members.

Nikos Kotzias said he told a meeting of colleagues from other EU members that border the Mediterranean on Friday that "it's not possible" for such unanimous EU decisions made by elected leaders to be pushed aside by other states "invoking decisions made by police chiefs."

He said colleagues from France, Italy, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus and Spain were "unanimous" in their support for Greece's position on the refugee crisis and that there was "clear criticism to all those who are seeking individual solution at the expense of other member states."


3:55 p.m.

The United Nations' refugee agency says Hungary's intention to hold a national referendum on the European Union's plan to relocate refugees undermines a "common European approach" to the issue.

The UNHCR is urging Hungary, which has built border fences to stop the migrant flow, to "shun the politics of fear on humanitarian issues" and "share responsibility, rather than trying to find ways to shift it" to other EU countries.

Hungary and neighboring Slovakia have sued the EU about its intention to share 160,000 migrants arriving in overburdened Greece and Italy.

Hungarian Justice Minister Laszo Trocsanyi said Friday that the referendum announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a matter of national sovereignty, adding that the EU was "stealthy" in trying to reduce member states' authority on the quotas.

Trocsanyi said that the referendum could be held as soon as five months from now if it is approved by the National Election Office and the courts.


2:20 p.m.

Serbia's interior minister says the country has been formally informed that Croatia and Slovenia will take no more than 500 migrants per day — far below the daily number of people seeking entry into the European Union.

Nebojsa Stefanovic said Friday that an official note from Croatia arrived the day before, and that Croatia had previously been informed of a change by Slovenia.

The change could well lead to further pressures in Greece and elsewhere along the main Balkan route that the migrants have been taking. Thousands are already stuck in Greece, which is seeing about 2,000 migrants arriving daily from Turkey.

Stefanovic says there are currently around 2,000 people in Serbia waiting to move on. An average of 10,000 people entered the EU each day at the peak of the influx last year.


12:50 p.m.

French state representatives are going tent-to-tent trying to convince residents in a sprawling migrant camp in the port city of Calais to leave, a day after a court ruled that a mass eviction could go ahead.

Groups of pro-migrant activists are also making the rounds of tents in the camp — called the "jungle" — Friday, telling residents they could stay.

Thursday's complex ruling — which banned any immediate destruction of common spaces that have sprung up such as houses of worship, a school or a women's center — has seeded confusion.

Authorities wanted a ruling allowing them to raze the camp, where thousands of migrants from the world's trouble spots have gathered to try to sneak across the English Channel to Britain via ferry or a Eurotunnel rail service.


12:25 p.m.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama says that Albania will not become the new route for migrants headed for western Europe "because we have neither the conditions nor the strength nor the enthusiasm to save the world while others close their borders."

Macedonia has all but closed its border with Greece, blocking the path for migrants who are continuing to arrive at the rate of thousands daily, leading some to wonder whether a route through Albania would be viable.

Speaking on a talk show late Thursday Rama contradicted a statement made earlier by the integration minister in which she said Albania would not build a wall to prevent refugees and other migrants from entering.

Rama said Albania could not hold "the entire burden. ... I have said that in case of a distribution of the burden we shall take our part."

He added that Albania has for six months been in negotiation with the Italian government about what to do if the migrants came to his country, "because normally they would not come to stay in Albania but would target Italy" — across the Adriatic Sea.


12:20 p.m.

Greece's government has ordered authorities on islands facing the coast of Turkey to reduce the number of migrants allowed to travel by ferry to the mainland so that more temporary shelters can be set up to cope with the crisis triggered by border restrictions in countries further north.

The Merchant Marine Ministry said ferry companies and regional authorities had been given the instructions Friday, as the number of migrants and refugees stranded in Greece continues to rise with thousands sleeping rough in parks and along the country's highways as existing shelters are filled to capacity.

The ministry said chartered ferries would be used on Lesbos and other islands to provide temporary shelter through Sunday.

About 2,000 people are arriving daily from Turkey using dinghies and small boats.