The Latest: Greece: 2 weeks or more to fix deportations

AP News
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Posted: Apr 09, 2016 10:31 AM
The Latest: Greece: 2 weeks or more to fix deportations

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

5:25 p.m.

Greece says it will take at least two weeks to fix the process of deporting migrants from the eastern Aegean islands to Turkey.

The country's deputy foreign minister for European affairs, Nikos Xydakis, admitted as much at a press conference attended also by his colleagues from France, Italy, Malta and Portugal, as well as the foreign ministers of the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Deportations from Greece to Turkey have been temporarily halted as most of the 6,750 migrants in the Greek islands are applying for asylum and there is a lack of qualified officials such as translators to process the applications. Most of the experts promised by the EU have not yet arrived.

French European affairs minister Harlem Desir is urging refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq to follow legal procedures to seek asylum in Europe rather than risk their lives in the perilous sea crossing into Greece, which now leads only back to Turkey, since Balkan countries north of Greece have shut their borders.

Desir says France will welcome 200 refugees directly from Turkey "in the coming days and weeks."

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1:40 p.m.

The government coordinator for migrant issues in Germany is calling for the country to step up deportations of those whose asylum applications have been rejected, saying it would be realistic to double last year's numbers of those sent home.

Peter Altmaier was quoted Saturday as telling the Funke Media group of newspapers that 22,200 migrants were deported from Germany last year and 37,220 returned home voluntarily.

He said "a realistic benchmark for 2016 would be a doubling of these numbers — that's where the states must take action."

Germany saw 1.1 million migrants enter the country last year and has been working to speed up the process of either granting them asylum or sending them home if they don't qualify for it.

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11:15 a.m.

Greece's coast guard says at least five migrants have drowned in the eastern Aegean Sea after a small plastic boat capsized.

The five victims, four women and a child, were found around dawn Saturday northeast of the Greek island of Samos, close to the Turkish coast. A coast guard spokeswoman says there were also five survivors: two women, two men and a child.

The spokeswoman spoke on customary condition of anonymity. She says the coast guard has no information about the ages and nationalities of the migrants or the children's gender.

The survivors, who are in a state of shock, told authorities a total of 11 people were aboard the 3.5-meter boat.

Migrant flows into Greece have slowed considerably recently following an EU-Turkey deal to deport migrants from Greek islands.