The Latest: Serbs capture 15 suspected people-smugglers

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2016 8:22 AM
The Latest: Serbs capture 15 suspected people-smugglers

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on Europe's response to the inflow of asylum-seekers and migrants (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Serbian authorities say they have captured 15 suspected people-smugglers in the past 10 days who tried to illegally transfer 236 migrants through the country.

Serbia's ministry of defense said in a statement on Tuesday that five more suspected people-smugglers remain at large. It says the detained are 11 Serbs, two Bulgarian citizens, one citizen of Pakistan and one from the Netherlands.

The statement adds that nearly half of the discovered migrants are Afghans, while the rest are from Iraq, Pakistan, Syria as well as other African and Asian countries.

Serbia has stepped up border controls to curb the influx of people trying to reach the European Union through the Balkan country. Migrants have been using clandestine routes and people-smugglers after borders closed for entry in March.


2 p.m.

Residents of a town on the Adriatic coastal town of Goro have blocked the arrival of 12 female migrants — including a pregnant woman — who were to be housed in a hostel.

The blockade came after new government figures showed total migrant arrivals to Italy have reached 153,632 so far this year, compared with 153,846 for all of last year.

The prefect of Ferrara province, Michele Tortora, said Tuesday that the women had been placed in nearby towns. Goro is among a handful of towns in the Italian province that currently houses no migrants.

Protest organizers told Sky TG24 that they would maintain their blockade as long as it takes.


12:30 p.m.

A German sea rescue group has urged the European Union to reconsider its plans to train Libyan coast guards following an incident last week in which dozens of migrants are feared to have died after an attack by a speedboat labeled as belonging to Libya's coast guard.

Sea-Watch says a Libyan coast guard ship intercepted an inflatable boat with about 150 migrants on board as the group was trying to rescue them.

The group presented photos Tuesday showing a coast guard walking through the packed dinghy and others manipulating the front of the fragile boat before it sank.

Sea-Watch says it recovered four bodies in the incident Friday and rescued 120 people.

Spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said the group was calling on the EU to closely scrutinize who exactly it was training and giving equipment to, to ensure such incidents aren't repeated.


12:10 p.m.

Hungary has started building a new fence on its southern border with Serbia as part of its efforts to keep migrants and refugees from freely entering the country.

Hungarian state television said Tuesday that two kinds of barriers are being tested along a short stretch of the border before construction begins in earnest.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in August that a sturdier fence — to be set up with electronic surveillance equipment — was needed in case of a new surge of people moving toward Western Europe.

Last year, Hungary built fences protected with razor wire along some 175 kilometers (110 miles) of its border with Serbia and shorter sections on the border with Croatia. Before the border was sealed in mid-October, nearly 400,000 people passed through the country on their way to Germany and other destinations in Western Europe.


11:55 a.m.

Police say the number of registered migrants crossing into Austria from Hungary has plummeted this year to fewer than 6,000, compared to almost 300,000 in 2015.

Police official Christian Stella says the drop is due in great part to the closing of the so-called West Balkans route used last year by migrants to reach prosperous western European countries.

That route, leading from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia and into Hungary, has been effectively shut down, with Hungary erecting razor wire on its eastern borders and other nations also strengthening border controls.

Stella told the Austria Press Agency Tuesday that about 5,800 migrants were recorded moving from Hungary into Austria this year, compared to some 294,000 last year.


11:30 a.m.

The Dutch government says 840 migrants have been caught so far this year trying to illegally enter Britain by hiding in trucks leaving ports in the Netherlands.

The number is a sharp increase from the 500 caught in 2015, but the government said Tuesday that numbers are on a downward trend this year from 360 in the first three months to 270 in the second quarter and 210 in the third quarter.

Authorities in the Netherlands have increased surveillance and checks at ports since mid-2015 amid fears that migrants trying to get to Britain would target Dutch ports.

Tuesday's announcement came on the second day of a French operation to clear a squalid camp in the busy port city of Calais that is home to thousands of migrants who want to reach Britain. That operation has raised concerns that migrants could attempt to make the crossing from other ports.

The Justice Ministry says nearly 80 percent of the migrants were caught at Dutch ports and the remainder on arrival in Britain.

Albanians accounted for nearly half of all the migrants caught trying to reach Britain via a Dutch port.


11:10 a.m.

French police are being deployed to keep order among the young migrants pushing barriers at Calais' makeshift camp.

Dozens of migrants jumped over railings Tuesday in an attempt to get to the camp's temporary processing center, the first step to being relocated in France.

Most identified themselves as unaccompanied minors with relatives across the English Channel in the U.K. They had made their way to the gates in the port city very early in the morning.

France is in day two of a weeklong, 6,000-person-strong mass evacuation of the controversial slum-like migrant camp.

Hassan Ali, a 25-year-old Pakistani, said Tuesday he was "excited" to leave — and hoped to return to university and find a job in France, having been unable to get to Britain.