The Latest: 2,000 refugees cross Greek-Macedonian border

AP News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2015 12:14 PM
The Latest: 2,000 refugees cross Greek-Macedonian border

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest developments as tens of thousands of people make their way to Europe and across the continent, seeking safety and a better life. All times local.

6:10 p.m.

Greek authorities say more than 2,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have crossed into Macedonia from Greece, a day after the border closed down following clashes between migrants.

More than 3,000 people remain stuck on the Greek side of the border, as Macedonia and other Balkan countries refuse to let them through, considering them economic migrants seeking jobs, not refugees fleeing war.

Those refused entry to Macedonia threw stones Friday at Greek riot police, who have been struggling to maintain order for the past two days.

Greek authorities have sent free trains and buses to carry the presumed economic migrants back to Athens, where they will be invited to seek asylum in Greece if they want. But nearly all those entering Greece from Turkey want to live in wealthy European countries such as Germany or Sweden.

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5:50 p.m.

Authorities in Germany have arrested five people in connection with two separate arson attacks on refugee shelters.

Prosecutors in the eastern town of Zwickau said Friday that three people, aged 32 to 35, were detained Tuesday on suspicion of attempted murder and attempted arson.

The unnamed suspects, described as having anti-foreigner attitudes, are accused of throwing homemade firebombs on Nov. 12 at a building housing up to 45 asylum-seekers in the town of Crimmitschau.

Dresden prosecutors say they arrested two unnamed men aged 37 and 41 on Wednesday accused of arson and property damage for setting fire to and later trying to flood an unfinished refugee shelter in Meissen this summer.

Germany has seen a sharp rise in such attacks this year amid an unprecedented influx of migrants.

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5:10 p.m.

Belgian police say they've broken up a human smuggling ring run by an Iraqi group with links in France and Britain.

The federal police office said Friday that six people have been detained in Belgium, suspected of being part of a network smuggling people in trucks from Brussels to England. Police say the suspects offered to take migrants staying in tents in Brussels across the English Channel for 1,500 euros ($1,640) each.

Police say the trips took place in "inhumane and dangerous conditions."

The suspects are migrants without travel documents but police believe they are four Iranians, a Palestinian and a Syrian. An alleged accomplice has also been detained in Britain.

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2:15 p.m.

The United States is giving $24 million in new money to help refugees as the European winter approaches.

The aid will go to the U.N. refugee agency for food, water and shelter. It will also help authorities screen and process refugees as they arrive in Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement as he visited Athens on Friday.

Greece has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of Syrians and other refugees who have reached the country's shores this year.

The U.S. has provided $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of Syria's civil war in 2011.

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2:50 p.m.

Greece's European affairs minister says his country has repeatedly asked for European Union help to deal with the massive influx of refugees this year, but the response so far has been far less than what was needed.

Minister Nikos Xydakis said Friday that Greece had been "persistently" asking for technical help and manpower since May to tackle the arrival of more than 700,000 people who have passed through the country since January. He said EU member states and the EU itself had been unable to adequately respond to Greece's needs.

Greece is the main point of entry into the EU of people fleeing war and poverty, the vast majority of who reach Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. The Greek government's response to the refugee crisis has come under criticism from some EU officials.

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2:20 p.m.

Greece has appealed for the European Union to urgently send border guards to help control its maritime frontier with Turkey as well as tents, generators and first aid for arriving refugees.

More than 50,000 people have arrived in Greece seeking sanctuary or jobs in Europe in the last month, and EU partners are pressing Athens to control the influx. Should Athens fail to do enough, passport controls could be reintroduced for Greek citizens traveling in Europe.

Greece also wants the EU's border agency Frontex to help register migrants at its land border with Macedonia.

EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Friday "we hope to have concrete, tangible progress on the ground" in Greece before EU leaders meet on Dec. 17