The Latest: EU offers 291 border guards amid migrant crisis

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 11:36 AM
The Latest: EU offers 291 border guards amid migrant crisis

DOBOVA, Slovenia (AP) — The latest news as migrants make their way across Europe by the tens of thousands, fleeing war or seeking a better life. All times local:

5:30 p.m.

The European Union's border agency says that members of the bloc have agreed to provide 291 border guards to be deployed immediately to Greece and Italy to help identify and register migrants.

The Warsaw-based agency said Tuesday that the 291 guards amount to about a fourth of what it had requested to handle the record number of migrants arriving in Europe.

In a statement, the agency's director, Fabrice Leggeri, said he hopes that countries will continue to volunteer more guards even though a deadline for the call has passed.

He said, "I hope we can move much closer to our goal."

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5 p.m.

Slovenian police used pepper spray to try to prevent some 200 migrants from jumping ahead of a long line of people waiting to enter Austria, but it took a barrier set up by Austrian police to stop them.

The migrants, who were sent to the back of the line, were trying to get to buses waiting in the Austrian border village of Spielfeld that were taking them to emergency shelters in Klagenfurt, 140 kilometers (87 miles) west.

Austrian police spokesman Joachim Huber said in Spielfeld that despite the presence of 700 migrants and the expected arrival of hundreds more "I think we are well prepared, so we can handle the new rush." Huber said another tent was being set up in Spielfeld to accommodate more migrants.

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4:25 p.m.

Norway's justice minister says asylum-seekers arriving from Russia can be returned if they have documents allowing them to stay in that country.

An increasing number of migrants have been crossing into Norway from Russia at the remote Arctic border post in Storskog, many on bicycles and other forms of transport because pedestrian crossings are not allowed there. Last week, 500 of a total 2,000 asylum-seekers arriving in Norway came through Storskog.

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen says immigration in Norway is "controlled and strictly regulated" and it's important that officials send "a clear signal" to people who don't need protection or have legal residence in Russia.

Anundsen said Tuesday that officials had seen several cases of people coming in who had "strong connections to Russia through dual citizenship, residence permits or visas."

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3:40 p.m.

Slovenia's government says it plans to boost capacity at reception centers for migrants to up to 14,000 beds, and it again accused neighboring Croatia of not sticking to arrangements regarding the flow of migrants toward Slovenia.

Bostjan Sefic, state secretary at the interior ministry, said Tuesday that the last 24 hours had been the "most difficult, the most challenging" in Slovenia's effort to deal with the thousands of migrants reaching the country since Hungary closed its border with Croatia on Saturday and forced migrants to find new routes toward Germany and western Europe.

Sefic said Croatia was not taking migrants to previously agreed locations. He described the situation in Brezice, near the Croatian border, as "very difficult, with an enormous amount of people."

Sefic said that "despite the difficulties, we do control the situation."

Sefic said up to 140 soldiers were assisting police at the border with logistics, working under direction from the police.

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3:15 p.m.

A top French administrative court is calling on the government to streamline its asylum process, which at two years takes longer than other European countries with little or no benefit.

In a finding released Tuesday, the court noted that spending on asylum seekers rose by 52 percent between 2009 and 2014 — far more than the number of those requesting asylum. It also found that 96 percent of those whose claims are rejected stay in France anyway.

The court acknowledged that the context had changed since this summer, when the government was notified of its conclusions, but said they were still relevant.

France has received far fewer migrants than Eastern Europe and Germany. Those who come congregate in the northern city of Calais, a jumping off point for Britain.

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2:50 p.m.

Latvia says it plans to erect a fence along parts of its 270-kilometer (168-mile) border with Russia to prevent illegal immigration into the small Baltic country.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Daiga Holma said Tuesday that the fence, equipped with high-tech sensors, will cover 90 kilometers of the land border in several sections. It's part of a 20 million euro ($23 million) project over the next four years to strengthen and better mark Latvia's border with its eastern neighbor.

Some 300 migrants, mostly from Vietnam but also from Iraq and Syria, have entered the Baltic country of 2 million illegally from Russia this year, more than for the full year 2014.

The fence was planned well before the migrant crisis in Europe but Holma says the project has become "a priority" because of fears that traffickers will use Latvia as a route for immigrants.

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1:55 p.m.

The Dutch government is warning asylum-seekers to expect long waits and "austere" accommodations while their applications are processed.

Junior Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff published a letter Tuesday to be handed to all seeking asylum in the Netherlands and is intended to clarify the lengthy procedures they face. A tough warning could also possibly serve as a deterrent to other migrants.

Some 2,200 asylum seekers arrived in the Netherlands last week.

The letter says the Netherlands does not have enough regular asylum-seeker reception centers to house all the new arrivals and adds, "That is why you are receiving an austere reception, such as in sports centers or tents, where many people share the same lodgings."

Dijkhoff also warns it will take nearly six months to process an asylum application and another six months or more before a decision.

The minister says even if people are granted asylum, housing shortages mean they may have to remain in asylum-seeker accommodation or be housed in converted shipping containers or converted office blocks.

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12:25

Croatia's interior minister says his country is trying to coordinate the transfer of migrants with Slovenia, which has accused its neighbor of failing to manage the relentless flow of people.

Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Croatia had asked Slovenian police on Monday where they wanted to receive the migrants, but had yet to receive a reply. Ostojic said Croatia expects Slovenia every day to take in half of the migrants arriving in Croatia.

Ostokic said: "If we are receiving 10,000, then 5,000 people have to be transited to Slovenia. If the number in Croatia is 5,000, then it's 2,500, or 50 percent."

Slovenia says it cannot handle more than 2,500 per day.

Ostojic said over 204,000 migrants had reached Croatia this year, with 2,600 of them now in refugee camps and 2,500 waiting in the village of Bapska, where they arrived from Serbia, to be taken by bus to the border with Slovenia.

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1:20 p.m.

Swedish police are investigating suspected arson at an asylum center in southwestern Sweden where 14 people were safely evacuated from the burning building early Tuesday.

Police spokesman Stefan Gustafsson says it's too early to say whether the fire near Munkedal was started by someone.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted Tuesday: "A civilized and humane country like Sweden cannot accept that accommodation for asylum-seekers is set on fire."

Tuesday's blaze was the third fire recently at centers to accommodate migrants. On Saturday, a disused school that planned to house 80 refugees was burned to the ground in southern Sweden, and on Sunday, another old school building meant for asylum accommodation near Kungsbacka, in southwestern Sweden, also burned down.

More than 150,000 asylum-seekers are estimated to arrive in Sweden this year.

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12:05 p.m.

Two international agencies say over a half million asylum-seekers have reached Greece this year.

The International Organization for Migration says 27,000 entered Greece over the weekend, while at least 25 people died trying to do so in the last week. It said Tuesday some 507,000 people have crossed into Greece this year, and 291 died in their attempts.

Melissa Fleming of the U.N. refugee agency, which estimated 502,000 arrivals this year, said those recently arriving are facing worsening winter weather and the prospect that European countries could close their borders.

The vast majority of those traveling to Greece are from Syria, while most others are from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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11:35 a.m.

Slovenia's government is pleading for help from its European neighbors as it struggles to cope with thousands of migrants arriving from Croatia.

A government statement on Tuesday said: "From Slovenia's perspective, European solidarity is at stake. It is delusional to expect a country with a population of 2 million to stop, regulate and resolve what much bigger member states have failed to do."

The government says Slovenia is the smallest country on the Balkan migration route, with limited capacity to control its borders and accommodate migrants.

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11:15 a.m.

Hiba Kanalani, a migrant from Damascus, pressed a blanket tight around her head and body, her teeth chattering from the cold while she stood in a row of asylum-seekers waiting to cross from Serbia into Croatia.

Kanalani arrived at the crossing hours earlier Tuesday with her two sons aged 4 and 7, unprepared for the weather.

Frustrated by the delay, she said: "What is this? Where is the army? Where is police? Where are buses? We will die here."

Kanalani started the journey toward Western Europe on Oct. 8 in Turkey, hoping to reach Sweden where she has relatives. The 39-year-old woman says her husband has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past seven years, but she didn't want to join him there because of the restrictions imposed on women.

Kanalani says, "You cannot drive, you cannot do anything. You have to cover face and body. I cannot live there."

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10:15 a.m.

Austrian police say that the country's main border crossings with Slovenia are quieter after the arrival Monday of more than 4,000 migrants fleeing war and hardship.

They say 3,500 came over the Spielfeld crossing and 780 at Bad Radkersburg. Police spokesman Fritz Grundnig said Tuesday morning that about 500 more migrants were expected at Bad Radkersburg over the coming hours.

The main crossing with Hungary at Nickelsdorf remains empty of migrants. That reflects their new route into Austria from Slovenia via Croatia, since Hungary closed its borders with Croatia and Serbia.

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10:05 a.m.

Wrapped in blankets or standing around fires to warm up in biting wind and cold, up to 1,000 migrants are waiting to cross from Serbia to Croatia and continue their journey toward Western Europe.

Croatian police on Tuesday were letting migrants cross into the country in groups of several dozen people at a time.

Still, some migrants have spent hours out in the cold as they awaited their turn. Tensions were building, with migrants shouting "Open! Open!" to the Croatian police.

Families with small children were putting on clothes they could find, lighting small fires, curling up in tents or under blankets and sleeping bags.

The same crossing was the scene of a massive backlog Sunday and Monday when Croatia stalled the flow because Slovenia further west was taking in limited numbers.

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10:00 a.m.

Slovenia says Croatia is sending thousands of migrants toward its borders "without control," ignoring requests to contain the surge.

The Slovenian government said Tuesday "the pressure of immigrants arriving from Croatia is intensifying. They send immigrants toward Slovenia without control, deliberately dispersed."

Croatia did not seem ready to slow the flow. On Tuesday morning, a train carrying more than 1,000 migrants from the town of Tovarnik and 20 buses full of migrants from the Opatovac refugee camp were headed toward the Slovenian border.

Slovenia's police said some 8,300 migrants seeking to head toward Western Europe were currently in reception centers in the small country, with thousands more arriving.

Slovenia, which has faced a surge of migrants since Hungary closed its border with Croatia on Saturday, says it can handle only 2,500 migrants a day. On Monday, 6,000 arrived.

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9:15 a.m.

Soldiers and police, some on horseback, escorted some 2,000 migrants to an overcrowded reception center in Slovenia after arriving from Croatia in the middle of the night. Authorities say another thousand arrived Tuesday morning.

Wrapped in plastic raincoats and blankets, the migrants were walking toward a refugee camp in nearby Brezice. Later, they were expected to be distributed to other camps.

Croatia has been sending migrants to the border with Slovenia since Saturday, when Hungary blocked passage to migrants from Croatia with a border fence protected by razor wire, soldiers and police patrols.

Slovenia's government said 6,000 migrants, mostly women and children, arrived on Monday.