The Latest: Aid group sees 'systematic' beating of migrants

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2017 11:23 AM
The Latest: Aid group sees 'systematic' beating of migrants

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on migration to Europe (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

Humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders says border officers in Hungary are systematically beating and abusing migrants trying to enter from Serbia.

General director of the group's Belgian operations, Christopher Stokes, said Tuesday that "there seems to be a kind of 'welcome to the EU' package of abuse that's provided by the Hungarian border police."

Stokes told The Associated Press that it "involves at a minimum beatings, practically systematically the application of tear gas at very close range and some sprays in the eyes."

He said migrants, mostly Afghans and Pakistanis — some of them injured — have reported being forced to remove shoes or clothing, with border police "obliging people to go back to Serbia in the snow and in the cold."

Stokes said the abuse is systematic and not just isolated incidents.

"I don't know on what level this is being authorized but it is clearly being authorized," he said.

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2:50 p.m.

A boat carrying 24 Syrian migrants which landed in a remote area of Cyprus' northwestern tip had set sail from Mersin, Turkey, a Cyprus police spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Nicos Tsappis told the Associated Press that the eight men, five women and 11 children had departed from the Turkish coast Monday.

Tsappis the migrants appear to be healthy and are currently being taken to the nearby town of Polis before being transferred to a migrant reception center outside the capital Nicosia.

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2:30 p.m.

A court in southern Germany has dismissed a case brought against Facebook by a Syrian refugee who wanted the company to seek and delete posts falsely linking him to crimes committed by migrants.

Anas Modamani was one of several asylum-seekers who took a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. These started appearing in Facebook posts following high-profile crimes in Germany where migrants were identified as the perpetrators.

Modamani wanted an injunction forcing Facebook to actively identify and remove such posts, rather than wait for users to flag them.

German news agency dpa reports the court in Wuerzbuerg has ruled that Facebook hadn't made the slanderous posts its own and therefore couldn't be forced to abide by a cease and desist order.

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1:30 p.m.

A Cyprus police spokesman says a boat carrying 25 people believed to be Syrian migrants has landed in a remote area off the northwestern tip of the east Mediterranean island.

Nicos Tsappis told The Associated Press that authorities are in the process of transferring the group, which includes women and children, to the town of Polis where they will receive a medical check-up.

Tsappis said it's unclear where the boat set sail from.

Tuesday's arrivals came a month after another boat loaded with 93 Syrian migrants — including 42 children landed on the island's northwestern shore.

Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said last month that up to 700 migrants could have been on their way to the island on smuggling trips from Turkey.

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1:05 p.m.

Migrants trying to reach the European Union from Serbia are worried because Hungary has imposed even tighter asylum rules for people fleeing war and poverty.

A 19-year-old migrant from Afghanistan, Fajaz Khan, said Tuesday that "we are going to Europe because we have many problems" back home.

Khan has been squatting at an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, looking for an opportunity to cross either to Hungary or Croatia, both EU member states.

Many migrants have made several attempts to cross and failed. Some have accused Hungary's border guards of beatings.

Hamid Khan from Pakistan says "for us, everywhere is difficult: here we are homeless and we are innocent."

Graffiti on the warehouse wall reads: "Open the border of Hungary!"

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11:10 a.m.

The European Union has adopted new rules to tighten checks at EU borders to the outside world to better track people who might have travelled to fight in war zones like Syria or Iraq.

The rules adopted Tuesday oblige EU countries to check everyone leaving or arriving in the bloc against customs, crime and visa databases. Until now, EU nationals have been exempt from such ID checks.

Malta's interior minister Carmelo Abela, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said they will help "address potential risks to internal security, including that posed by foreign terrorist fighter returnees."

Fears that foreign fighters might return and create havoc in Europe have grown acute since the Iraqi government-led attack on the Islamic State group stronghold in the northern city of Mosul.

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10:55 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister says migrants are keeping his country "under siege" and he expects the current lull in the migrant flow to be temporary.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, has ordered the reinforcement of fences on Hungary's southern borders to keep out migrants. Orban says the migrants, many of whom are Muslims, are a threat to Europe's Christian identity and culture.

Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for a new group of border guards known locally as "border hunters," Orban said that Hungary could only count on itself for protection.

While Orban attended the ceremony, lawmakers from his governing Fidesz party approved new rules which further limit the rights of asylum-seekers and give police more power to send migrants back to Serbia.

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10:25 a.m.

Europe's top court has ruled that European Union member states aren't obliged to grant humanitarian visas to people who want to enter their territory to apply for asylum.

The decision announced Tuesday came after a Belgian court in October ordered the government to give humanitarian visas to a family in war-torn Syria.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that allowing people to choose where to get international protection would undermine the EU system establishing which country should handle asylum applications.

But the Luxembourg-based court said member state courts remain free to grant the visas under national law.

Friends in Belgium had offered to lodge and feed the family, believed still to be in Syria. The government fears that granting visas would open the floodgates to more applications.