The Latest: Czechs welcome new EU border agency

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2015 12:05 PM
The Latest: Czechs welcome new EU border agency

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The latest news on the mass movement of asylum-seekers and migrants to Europe. All times local:

6:05 p.m.

The Czech prime minister is welcoming a proposal by the EU's executive Commission to create a European border and coast guard agency aimed at improving the protection of the bloc's external borders.

Bohuslav Sobotka says his country has been calling for measures to fix poor management of the external borders for a while and "we are ready to support such a proposal."

The new agency would monitor the EU's borders with the outside world and have the right to send guards, ships, planes or other assets when countries are unable or unwilling to enforce border laws.

Sobotka said Tuesday his country "is ready to send its police force and experts" to such an agency.

The Czechs have already deployed dozens of officers Hungary and Slovenia to help them guard the borders of the EU's visa-free Schengen zone.

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5:40 p.m.

Only 64 of the tens of thousands of refugees that Greece's European Union partners should be taking to help lighten the country's migrant burden have actually gone to other EU states.

The EU's executive Commission also said on Tuesday that just one of the five "hotspot areas" on the Greek islands meant to register and fingerprint arriving migrants is operational.

The hotspots are a key component of the EU's relocation plan to share 66,400 refugees in Greece with other EU nations over the next two years.

The Commission noted that only nine of the 23 participating EU states have offered relocation places to Greece, almost three months after the scheme was launched

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3:55 p.m.

Lithuania has received four members of an Iraqi family, the first asylum-seekers under a European Union plan to relocate some of the hundreds of thousands of migrants to set foot on the tiny Baltic country.

The father said Tuesday at Vilnius' international airport that they fled "because of never ending violence." The family that includes a 1-year-old baby didn't give their names.

The 28-member EU has agreed on sharing 160,000 refugees arriving in Greece and Italy. Under that relocation plan, Lithuania has accepted to take 1,105 refugees from the Middle East.

In 2014, Lithuania received 440 refugees, up from 400 people in the previous year. The bulk comes from Georgia, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

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1 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's most prominent critic in the refugee crisis is sending conciliatory signals, welcoming her acknowledgement that an unabated influx would overburden Germany.

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer spoke Tuesday at a conference of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union. Seehofer leads the Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavaria-only sister party, and has sniped for months at her welcoming approach.

He downplayed differences of approach between the two parties but stressed that it's important to reduce refugee numbers soon.

Merkel rallied her own party behind her on Monday, sticking to her insistence that "we will manage" the influx, while pledging to reduce refugee numbers. Without promising specific action, she said that Germany would be "overburdened" if refugees continued to arrive in such large numbers.

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11:50 a.m.

The EU's executive Commission is unveiling a proposal for a European border and coast guard agency aimed at plugging gaps in migration policy and poor management of the bloc's external borders.

The new agency would monitor the EU's borders with the outside world and have the right to send guards, ships, planes or other assets when countries are unable or unwilling to enforce border laws.

The plan is contentious because it requires countries to surrender some of their sovereignty - something many have viscerally opposed so far - and it is unclear whether the scheme will win enough backing.

Greece and Italy, but also Croatia, have proved unable to register even half of the tens of thousands of migrants who have entered their territories since July.

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10:35 a.m.

The European Union's border control agency says the number of migrants arriving in Greece fell sharply in November, the first month-on-month drop in a year that has seen record numbers of asylum-seekers arrive in Europe.

Frontex cited worsening weather and more restrictive border-control policies along the Western Balkan route as the apparent reasons for the drop.

Some 108,000 people arrived in Greece in November, down from 150,000 in October.

The Warsaw-based agency said 715,000 migrants arrived on the Greek islands through the end of November, 16 times more than in the same period last year.

Most of the migrants are Syrians, followed by Afghans and Iraqis.

Frontex said the number of migrants crossing into Italy from Libya decreased for the fourth straight month.