The Latest: Merkel says leaders discuss support for Libya

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2016 1:06 PM
The Latest: Merkel says leaders discuss support for Libya

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

7:00 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she, U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of France, Britain and Italy have discussed ways of supporting the fragile unity government in Libya and the possibility of expanding military efforts to stop the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean.

Speaking after talks in Hannover on Monday, Merkel said that NATO was already patrolling for smugglers in the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey.

She emphasized there were no "concrete proposals" for a similar mission off Libya and that a European Union operation in the Mediterranean had been working "quite well." But, she said, Obama has assured the European leaders the U.S. was prepared to also "take responsibility with regard to the Mediterranean route from Libya if necessary."

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6:45 p.m.

Greece's coast guard says authorities in the western Greek port of Patras have arrested a truck driver after finding 11 migrants hiding in a compartment hidden in the vehicle's cargo of oranges.

The coast guard said Monday the 58-year-old driver was arrested the previous day on suspicion of attempting to smuggle the migrants abroad. Patras is Greece's main port for ferries to and from neighboring Italy.

Nearly 54,000 migrants and refugees are stranded in Greece since Europe closed its land borders to the massive refugee flow heading north to the more prosperous countries of central and northern Europe.

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6:30 p.m.

Greece's coast guard says it rescued a total of 304 refugees and migrants at sea in eight separate operations over the last week, from April 18-25.

The coast guard said Monday it had also arrested one suspected migrant smuggler and seized four boats used to ferry people to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish shore.

The number of refugees making the short but often dangerous crossing from Turkey to the eastern Aegean islands has dropped significantly since a European Union-Turkey deal came into effect last month.

Under the deal, those arriving from March 20 onwards face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece — which few want to do. The deal has been heavily criticized by human rights groups, who say it violates the rights of refugees and that Turkey is not a safe country to return them to.

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5:15 p.m.

Queen Rania of Jordan has visited refugees and migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos, which has been one of the main gateways into Europe for people fleeing war, poverty and persecution at home.

Rania visited the Kara Tepe camp on Monday, a municipal-run facility hosting more than 800 people. Jordan is currently home to more than 1.2 million Syrians.

Rania says aid organizations had voiced "deep concern" over the recent European Union-Turkey deal under which those arriving on Greek islands after March 20 face deportation back to Turkey. She says it is "absolutely crucial for us to look for legal alternatives and more safe and effective pathways to Europe and to areas of safety."

She also says authorities need to search for sustainable, long-term solutions to the migrant crisis.

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2:35 p.m.

Poland's Interior Ministry says it will send 120 border guards, police and migration bureau officers to Greece to help protect the European Union's borders under the mass inflow of refugees.

A communique on the ministry website said Monday that due to the "continuing migration crisis in Europe," 60 Border Guard officers and 40 police officers with the necessary equipment will soon support Europe's border protection agency, Frontex, in securing Greece's border, which is also the EU's external border.

A further 20 experts of Poland's Office for Foreigners will help with processing the migrants' requests for asylum.

Poland is refusing to accept any refugees, citing security concerns after deadly attacks in France and Belgium.

Warsaw argues support should be offered to refugees in camps nearest to their home countries.

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2:10 p.m.

Austria has re-imposed controls on its border with Hungary, with police checking vehicles at the main regular crossings and soldiers patrolling other stretches of the border.

Police say the controls that began Monday are meant to ensure that no one crosses illegally and to prevent the smuggling of migrants into Austria and other EU nations. They have reported more such smuggling attempts into Austria since countries along the Balkan migration route closed their borders to migrants earlier this year.

Before that, tens of thousands of migrants seeking better lives in prosperous EU countries came through Hungary and then through Austria until Hungary sealed its borders last September with razor-wire fences.

Austrian police did not say how long the new border controls would remain.