The Latest: UN: 13 deported migrants wanted to seek asylum

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2016 1:17 PM
The Latest: UN: 13 deported migrants wanted to seek asylum

DIKILI, Turkey (AP) — The Latest on Europe's response to the continuing tide of refugees (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says 13 of the 202 migrants Greece sent back to Turkey this week had "indicated" to it their intention to seek asylum in Greece and may not have been able to launch the process before being deported.

The UNHCR on Wednesday also requested "urgent action" to ensure that migrants on Greek islands have full access to the asylum process, noting that the country's asylum system is overwhelmed.

But a Greek government official ruled out the possibility that the 13, who were deported from the island of Chios, had notified authorities of their intention to seek asylum.

The official said migrants can be taken off the deportation list to Turkey "even at the very last moment" — and 15 others did just that Monday, leaving deportation buses when they said they wanted to apply for asylum. The official spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

Monday's migrant deportations to Turkey were the first under a controversial European Union plan to stem the flow of refugees to the continent.

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6:10 p.m.

The Czech government and opposition are both voicing opposition to a proposed reform of European Union migration policies that would mean each EU nation has to take a set number of asylum-seekers.

The EU's executive Commission is proposing a reform in which a "distribution key" to spread asylum applicants around the EU would be a key element. But efforts to distribute the recent influx of refugees already caused serious friction with many EU nations — including the Czech Republic.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Wednesday that "the Czech government won't agree with any system of mandatory permanent quotas." Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said any mandatory distribution of migrants won't work because "the people don't want to be here."

The opposition Civic Democratic Party said the proposal limits the sovereignty of EU member countries.

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3:40 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister denies that his country is returning Syrian refugees to their homeland, as claimed by Amnesty International.

Ahmet Davutoglu says Turkey hasn't returned a single Syrian refugee, because the government and the extremist organizations in Syria are known for being "brutal."

Davutoglu spoke Wednesday at a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart, Juha Sipila, in Helsinki.

He said Amnesty International's claim was "absolutely wrong," adding that hundreds of thousands of Syrian children now living in Turkey are "our children."

The organization alleged Turkey has been expelling Syrian groups of around 100 men, women and children on an almost daily basis since mid-January.

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3:30 p.m.

The mayor of a northern Greek border region has filed a lawsuit claiming impromptu refugee camps in the area are illegal, and citing violations of regulations on health, safety and the obstruction of traffic.

Christos Gkountenoudis, mayor of Peonia, filed the lawsuit Wednesday against "anyone deemed responsible" — a system whereby a lawsuit can be filed when the precise culprit of an alleged crime is not known.

Peonia includes the border village of Idomeni on whose outskirts more than 11,000 refugees and migrants have been camping for months

Gkountenoudis alleged Idomeni and impromptu camps at a nearby highway gas station and a hotel, were illegal. He also complained about protesting refugees blocking the rail freight link with neighboring Macedonia and occasional closures of nearby roads.

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2:05 p.m.

Dozens of migrants and refugees are staging a sit-down protest in the Greece's main port of Piraeus, where thousands have been camping out for weeks, after reports that authorities would try to move the people there into organized camps.

Dozens shouted at police and sat on the dock chanting "open the borders." Greek authorities have been trying to persuade the more than 4,700 people camping in small tents in the port to move to organized camps, but few have been boarding the buses provided. Many fear the conditions in the organized camp will be worse than in the port, or that they could be restricted in their movements.

More than 53,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece since Europe closed its land borders last month.

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12:15 p.m.

After a crisis that has shaken the European Union to its core, the EU's executive wants a fundamental reform of its migrant policies that heaped pressure on some nations like Greece as a million migrants and refugees have arrive over the past year.

In a draft document to other EU institutions and seen by The Associated Press, the EU Commission wants to amend the principle where the first nation of call must process the asylum request.

Under both options put to the member states and the parliament, a "distribution key" to spread asylum applicants around the EU would be central.

A mandatory distribution of the current influx of asylum seekers has already caused serious friction among many EU nations.

The Commission presents its proposals later Wednesday.

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11:50 a.m.

French President Francois Hollande says that the European Union's biggest problem is its slow decision-making process — whether in the financial crisis, the fight against terrorism or a common response to the refugee crisis.

In an interview published Wednesday in the German daily Bild, Hollande said Wednesday that "in the end (Europe) always succeeds in finding a solution ... but we have to pay a high price for the lost time."

The French president, who is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in France for government consultations on Thursday, also stressed that the refugee crisis needs a common European response instead of national decisions by different European countries.

Hollande said that when it comes to migration, 2016 cannot be a repeat of 2015 — which saw more than 1 million migrants entering the EU.

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11:05 a.m.

The Turkish coast guard has apprehended dozens of migrants on the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

About 60 people, including some Syrians, were brought to a coast guard station in the western province of Izmir on Wednesday.

The European Union began sending back migrants this week under a deal with Turkey aimed at preventing illegal migration to Europe.

On Monday, 202 migrants from 11 countries were sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

The same day, 155 migrants were caught on the Aegean by the Turkish coast guard.

Meanwhile, dozens of Syrians were flown to German, Finland and the Netherlands on Monday and Tuesday.

The EU-Turkey deal stipulates that for every Syrian returned from Europe to Turkey another should be resettled in Europe.