The Latest: 2,000 migrants headed toward Austria in 4 trains

AP News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2015 1:24 PM
The Latest: 2,000 migrants headed toward Austria in 4 trains

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

7:20 p.m.

Authorities in Slovenia say around 2,000 migrants from a refugee camp at the Croatian border are traveling in four trains toward Austria.

The state railway company Slovenske Zeleznice said Thursday three trains were headed toward the Sentilj border crossing in the northeast while the last one is going to Jesenice, in the northwest, for the first time since migrants took a turn toward Slovenia on Saturday.

So far, all migrants have crossed into Austria at the Sentilj crossing, which has been overloaded, leading to tensions among thousands anxious to move on after weeks of traveling through many countries.

Most migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa wish to go to Germany or other wealthier countries of Western Europe.

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7:10 p.m.

Slovenia says several EU nations have offered to help to the tiny Alpine nation as it struggles to cope with the influx of thousands of migrants crossing its territory in hopes of reaching Western Europe.

European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said Thursday in the capital, Ljubljana, that Slovenia also can count on EU's financial aid, but didn't specify the amount.

Slovenia Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar said Austria, Germany, Italy, as well as the so-called Visegrad Group — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — have offered help, including staff.

Earlier on Thursday, Slovenia sent a formal request for EU aid to the European Commission. The country has said its capacities are stretched to the limit with around 38,000 migrants entering since Saturday.

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5:55 p.m.

Hungary's prime minister says if the European Union is incapable of stopping the waves of people arriving at its "eastern gate" of Greece, they must be stopped at its "western gate" of Hungary and Slovenia.

Speaking Thursday at a meeting of the European People's Party in Madrid, Prime Minister Viktor Orban described those escaping poverty and war in the Middle East, Asia and Africa as a "people's migration made up of economic immigrants, refugees and armed foreigners."

Orban is adamantly opposed to taking in the migrants.

Orban said there was a "moral responsibility to give these people back their homes and countries. But it can't be our goal to provide a new European life for them."

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5:30 p.m.

Slovenia has formally requested European Union aid in managing the influx of thousands of migrants crossing through on their way toward wealthy countries in Western Europe.

Interior Ministry official Bostjan Sefic said Thursday the request has been sent to the European Commission. He spoke hours ahead of a visit by European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Officials say more than 5,000 people arrived in Slovenia by noon on Thursday alone and more than 38,000 have come since Saturday, when Hungary closed its border with Croatia.

The tiny European nation of 2 million says it has been overwhelmed by the migrant influx and has called on the army to help police with border duties.

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5:20 p.m.

Officials from Hungary and Serbia have reopened a border checkpoint where Hungarian police had earlier used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons against hundreds of refugees trying to enter the country.

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said Thursday the reopening of the smaller of two crossings at Roszke in Hungary (Horgos in Serbia) meant all official checkpoints between the two countries were back in operation.

Dozens of police and migrants were injured in the clashes on Sept. 16, a day after Hungary closed its border with Serbia to the free flow of refugees. On Saturday, Hungary also closed its border with Croatia, forcing migrants to detour toward Slovenia in their efforts to reach Germany and other EU destinations.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic has asked richer EU nations to help with the massive migrant influx, saying it was impossible for the transit countries to bear most of the burden.

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4:15 p.m.

Slovenian police say one person has been detained after a scuffle between migrants left one person with stab wounds.

Police official Alenka Drenike said Thursday that the injured migrant suffered minor injuries in the clash on the Rigonci border area with Croatia.

The incident earlier on Thursday reflects tensions among the migrants as they wait in long lines and cold weather to move on toward western Europe.

The migrant flow has slowed since Hungary closed its border with Croatia, diverting their route toward much smaller Slovenia. Most migrants want to reach Germany or other rich European nations as they flee war and poverty in Syria and other countries of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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4:05 p.m.

A Cyprus foreign ministry official says 114 people aboard two boats that came ashore at a British air base on the east Mediterranean island on Wednesday are the responsibility of British authorities.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the matter, said a 2003 agreement Cyprus signed with the British Bases does not obligate Cyprus to take accept asylum seekers, whether or not their applications are accepted.

He said Thursday that the agreement stipulates that Cyprus must help British authorities screen and house asylum seekers until their bids are examined. It's unclear what will happen to those who don't apply for asylum or don't meet application criteria.

British Bases authorities said Wednesday that the agreement holds the Cyprus government responsible for such arrivals.

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3:50 p.m.

Croatia's interior minister says neighboring Slovenia should speed up migrant acceptance so the newcomers can swiftly move on toward western Europe.

Ranko Ostojic said Thursday that Croatia has offered to transport migrants in trains directly to a Slovenian border crossing with Austria. "I don't know what else we can do so these people don't freeze," he said.

Slovenia has accused Croatia of dumping large numbers of migrants at its doorstep without coordination. Ostojic said that "if 10,000 come to Croatia, half of them have to go through."

He added that migrants have already been registered in Croatia before they reach Slovenia, so "stalling them is not necessary."

Ostojic said a meeting with Serbian officials on Friday will aim to resolve problems at the Serbia-Croatia border, where migrants have been spending long hours in the open in freezing temperatures

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3:15 p.m.

Police in Slovenia say one man has been stabbed in a scuffle among refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia.

Police said the incident took place near Rigonci earlier Thursday. They say the wounded man has received medical treatment.

Anxiety and impatience have been growing among thousands of people moving toward Western Europe as they wait to move on in long lines in cold weather.

The migrant flow has slowed after Hungary closed its border with Croatia forcing their route toward much smaller Slovenia. Most migrants want to reach Germany or other rich European nations as they flee war and poverty in Syria and other countries of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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2:45 p.m.

The Czech Republic's president and the Interior Minister have rejected the criticism by the U.N. human rights chief of their country's policy of detaining migrants and refugees and their treatment.

Speaking through his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek, President Milos Zeman dismissed the criticism as a campaign against the Czech Republic. Ovcacek says Zeman is not ready to change his critical views of Islam and the refugees.

Zeman previously said that asylum-seekers might bring terrorism and infectious diseases, and called for the deployment of the armed forces to protect the country's borders against them.

The reaction comes after Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UNHCR chief, suggested the Czech Republic systemically violates the human rights of migrants. Zeid singled out the Bela-Jezova center where refugees are detained with their children.

The Czech Republic's ombudsman condemned conditions in the detention facility last week, saying they violate the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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2:40 p.m.

An official of Slovenia's ruling party official says declaring a state of emergency over the migrant crisis remains a possibility although the government hopes to avoid that by granting some police powers to the army.

Simona Kustec Lipicer, a senior official of Prime Minister Miro Cerar's Modern Center Party, said Thursday the state of emergency could be declared in case of "drastic deterioration in the situation."

Slovenia's Constitution envisages the state of emergency can be declared when there is clear and present danger to the country. It is formally imposed by the parliament upon a proposal from the government.

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1:20 p.m.

The U.N. human rights chief is criticizing the Czech Republic for its policy of detaining migrants and refugees for up to 90 days.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein says credible reports indicate "the violations of the human rights of migrants are neither isolated nor coincidental, but systematic" in the country. He said the Czech measures appear to be designed to deter arrivals.

His office took aim in particular Thursday at detention facilities such as Bila-Jezova north of Prague, saying that even Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has called it "worse than a prison." It cited an internal Czech report on Oct. 13 saying 100 children were inside when the rapporteur visited.

Zeid's office cited other reports that authorities had strip-searched some migrants to confiscate money to pay for their involuntary detention.

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11:30 a.m.

Austria's state rail company has suspended traffic near the main border crossing point with Slovenia so as not to endanger migrants near the tracks.

The move comes after Austrian police removed barriers Thursday at the migrant collection point at the Spielfeld crossing, saying they needed to relieve growing pressure due to overcrowding that could lead to violence.

Police say more than 3,000 migrants remain grouped near the collection point. But hundreds are scattered, with many walking northward from the border on a main road toward the southern city of Graz.

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11:00 a.m.

A U.N. refugee agency field officer says a large number of families with small children have been among the thousands of migrants crossing along a muddy border passage between Serbia and Croatia.

Niklas Stoerup Agerup, field protection officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said Thursday that some 1,000 people have passed through the border area overnight.

Stoerup Agerup says that around 60 percent of the people passing through are in families, and "maybe 45 percent of them have been children under the age of 5." He adds that "it is a tendency that we have been seeing over the last couple of weeks."

Croatian police say some 1,300 migrants have crossed the border since midnight Wednesday.

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10 a.m.

Slovenian police say more than 12,000 people crossing from Croatia on Wednesday, raising the total to more than 34,000 since Saturday.

Slovenia became a new link in the migrant trail after Hungary closed its border. Asylum seekers who had reached Croatia then turned to Slovenia as the alternative.

Some 12,616 migrants entered the country on Wednesday, higher than the usual number of up to 10,000 people reported by countries along the so-called Balkan corridor.

Slovenia has said it can handle no more than 2,500 entries per day, and has accused Croatia of sending too many migrants through.

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9:30 a.m.

More than 1,000 asylum seekers have streamed out of a crowded Austrian collection point on the border with Slovenia after Austrian police removed barriers to prevent possible violence.

Police said some followed instructions and regrouped outside the barriers Thursday but many continued walking northward away from the Spielfeld border crossing.

More than a thousand migrants fleeing war and hardship already broke through barriers at the Austrian center on Wednesday, but most were collected by police. This time, police said they removed barriers to relieve pent-up pressure that could have triggered violence among those waiting for transport to shelters.

Several thousand more migrants are waiting on the Slovene side of the border for entry into Austria.