The Latest: Turkey says it will abide by refugee rules

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 1:09 PM
The Latest: Turkey says it will abide by refugee rules

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on Europe's migration crisis (all times local):

7:05 p.m.

A Turkish foreign ministry official says his country will abide by international rules governing refugee rights and cooperate with the U.N. refugee agency when implementing a deal reached with the European Union on taking back migrants.

The official also said Monday that European nations won't "pick and choose" the Syrian refugees that they will take from Turkey according to religion or educational status, saying priority will be given to Syrians with special needs as identified by the refugee agency.

Turkey and the EU struck a deal in Brussels last week under which irregular migrants who arrive in Greece will be returned to Turkey, and the EU will take an equal number of Syrians who are currently staying in refugee camps in Turkey.

Some 25 officials from Turkey's migration authority had been sent to five Greek islands to help prepare for the return of the irregular migrants to Turkey, the official said.

The official requested anonymity in line with Turkish government rules.

— By Suzan Fraser

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6:20 p.m.

The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights is calling for additional measures to protect the rights of migrants now that a deal has been reached by the EU and Turkey.

Nils Muiznieks said the deal's legal and procedural safeguards should apply to all people -- not just Syrians -- reaching Greece or any EU country. Such safeguards should likewise extend to anyone who is returned to Turkey.

He also called on Greece and Turkey to limit the use of detention of migrants to "exceptional" cases and take steps to ensure there are no collective returns.

Muiznieks described the deal, which officially came into effect on Sunday, as "just a patch to plug one of the holes in the highly dysfunctional approach of European states to migration."

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4:05 p.m.

The Human rights group Amnesty International says the European Union's deal to send thousands of migrants back to Turkey is flawed because Turkey cannot be considered a safe country.

The head of Amnesty's EU office, Iverna McGowan, said Monday that the deal struck in Brussels last week "is seriously legally and morally flawed."

She told The Associated Press that "Turkey does not offer adequate protection to anyone." Turkey is already home to 2.7 million Syrian refugees, and Amnesty says Syrians are routinely forced back across the border.

McGowan also called the living conditions of refugees in Turkey are also "woefully inadequate."

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4 p.m.

The European Union border control agency Frontex says it's seeking 1,500 police officers and 50 readmissions officers from the bloc's member states to help Greece return migrants to Turkey.

The announcement Monday comes after the 28-member bloc and Turkey reached a deal last Friday under which migrants who arrive in Greece will be returned to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if they make a failed asylum request.

Greece does not have enough officials to process all the asylum-seekers flooding across the Aegean Sea from Turkey.

Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri said "Frontex can only return people once the Greek authorities have thoroughly analyzed each individual case and issued a final return decision."

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3 p.m.

Germany saw the highest level of net immigration of foreigners since World War II last year due to the refugee crisis.

The Federal Statistical Office says almost two million foreigners were newly registered in Germany in 2015. Some 860,000 foreigners left the country, resulting in net migration of 1.14 million foreigners to Germany.

Immigration figures were boosted by the arrival of almost 1.1 million asylum-seekers last year.

The statistical office said Monday that arrivals were 49 percent higher than in 2014, while departures rose 12 percent compared to the previous year.

The number of foreigners registered in Germany rose to 9.11 million from 8.15 million in one year, taking into account births, deaths and naturalizations.

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1:35 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed European countries for their criticism of human rights and media freedoms in Turkey, accusing them of failing to protect refugee rights and of supporting Kurdish rebels, who he says are behind a spate of terror attacks in Turkey.

Erdogan on Monday also criticized Western countries for rejecting Turkish proposals for the creation of a no-fly zone or secure zones in Syria, which he said would have prevented Europe's refugee crisis.

Erdogan says "all those who have not accepted a no-fly zone and a zone cleared of terror in Syria, and everyone who complains about the refugees are two-faced and hypocritical."

Erdogan said Turkey had agreed to a refugee deal with the EU to prevent Syrian refugees from being subjected to "derogatory treatment" at European borders.

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1:20 p.m.

Serbian police say they have arrested eight people for smuggling migrants across the border to Hungary.

Police said Monday they are suspected of organizing accommodations, transfers and the smuggling of seven illegal migrants from Turkey and Syria to Hungary for 5,250 euros ($5,910).

Human trafficking has soared in the Balkans as nations have closed down their borders recently to migrants hoping to reach the European Union after fleeing war and poverty at home.

Hungary last year built a razor-wire fence along its southern border with Serbia, but smugglers still guide migrants through the holes in the wire or over the fence. Migrants are also hidden in trucks or in overcrowded vans — and many end up being double-crossed by the smugglers and never reach their destinations.

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1 p.m.

Monitors from Turkey have arrived on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios to help supervise an agreement aimed limiting the number of refugees flowing into the European Union via smugglers' boats.

The officers arrived Monday and were to stay for at least one week, as Greek authorities scrambled to implement the landmark deal reached last week between the EU and Turkey that includes faster refugee relocations to European countries as well as collective deportations of migrants from Greek islands back to Turkey.

Greece's conservative opposition criticized the Turkish arrivals, a controversial topic as Greece and Turkey have ongoing boundary disputes in the Aegean Sea.

Government figures released Monday said the number of stranded refugees in Greece exceeded 50,000 with no significant letdown in the number of daily arrivals.