The Latest: Greeks protest winter migrant camp deaths

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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 1:04 PM
The Latest: Greeks protest winter migrant camp deaths

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

7 p.m.

Anti-government protests are taking place in Athens and on the island of Lesbos following a string of winter deaths at migrant camps.

Demonstrators in the Greek capital chanted "give migrants shelter" during a peaceful march in the city center Friday to protest camp conditions, after the deaths of five migrants this winter.

Three of them died in the past week at a deportation camp on Lesbos, and authorities are investigating whether the deaths were caused by fumes from makeshift heaters.

The government said this week it was intensifying efforts to move migrants out of poorly-heated camp facilities during the winter months and place them in hotels and apartments.

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5 p.m.

The number of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean sea has surged as calm waters encouraged smugglers following days waiting for bad weather to clear, said an NGO operating in the area.

Doctors Without Borders said in a tweet that their rescue boat north of the Libyan coast was operating fully over capacity and holding 720 migrants after five rescues.

The Aquarius was receiving assistance from a another vessel operated by Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO that rescued 222 migrants, including a baby and two toddlers, from two boats on Friday.

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10:55 a.m.

A top European Union official says a summit in Malta aims for a deal to better manage migrant flows from Libya across the central Mediterranean Sea toward Italy while still protecting lives.

U.N. and human rights officials have voiced concern that any such deal could include sending migrants, now kept in dangerous, overcrowded conditions in Libyan camps, back to the very dire circumstances they were trying to flee. But EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini says the aim is to "'decrease loss of life at sea and in the desert" of southern Libya along smugglers' routes.

She told reporters as she arrived at Friday's gathering that the summit would also provide "strong support" support to Italy, which has coordinated the rescue of hundreds of thousands of migrants at sea in the past few years.

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10:10 a.m.

Human rights concerns are looming over a proposed EU plan to block migrants in Libya.

A one-day EU summit in Malta is discussing how to stop the so-far relentless flow of people fleeing poverty and conflicts in Africa and elsewhere setting out in smugglers' boats launched from Libyan shores. EU leaders want to close down that route across the central Mediterranean, likely through naval and economic assistance to the beleaguered government in Libya.

Advocates for refugees cite inhumane conditions in Libyan detention camps where the migrants are kept.

Doctors Without Borders general director Arjan Hehenkamp says in a statement that "the European Union and its member states need a reality check." The official calls the camps "dangerously overcrowded."