The Latest: Finland tightens controls at Russian border

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2016 10:56 AM
The Latest: Finland tightens controls at Russian border

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Latest on issues involving migrants in Europe (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

Czech and Austrian presidents have expressed doubts about the EU-Turkey deal to stem the flow of refugees to the European continent.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer says he wishes the deal would bring good results "but I am not sure about it at all."

His Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, known for his anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric, says that from the Turkish side he considers the deal "blackmail."

Fischer was on his last foreign trip before his second term in office expires. The two met at the presidential residence in Lany, west of Prague.


4:50 p.m.

Finland has started tightening controls at two northern border crossings with Russia to halt illegal crossings.

Tuija Paakki, spokeswoman for The Finnish Border Guard, said Monday crossings at the two Arctic border posts were limited to citizens of Finland, Russia and Belarus, and their families.

The move comes after a surge in asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Asia entering northern Finland from Russia. The increase has raised fears the region could become a new major entry point into Europe for migrants.

The six-month measure was agreed between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto last month. It covers only the two Arctic crossings, not other crossings between the two countries further south.

More than 1,000 people have applied for asylum at the Arctic crossings so far this year — up from less than 700 in 2015.


2:10 p.m.

Macedonia has asked Greece to fully engage its police forces to prevent what it called the violent rioting of migrants and attempts to illegally cross the border.

Monday's call came a day after seven-hour clashes between Macedonian security forces and hundreds of migrants and refugees who attempted to breach the border fence at an impromptu refugee camp housing more than 11,000 people near the Greek village of Idomeni.

Macedonian authorities fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and medical aid agencies said they treated about 300 people. Macedonia said 14 police offers and nine soldiers were wounded. Greek police did not intervene.

The Macedonian foreign ministry said Skopje has been continuously requesting "cooperation, information sharing and preventive action" from Greece to discourage such incidents.


12:05 p.m.

Only 18 refugees and migrants have entered Greece by sea over the past 24 hours, a week after a European Union deal to deport new arrivals back to Turkey went into effect.

However, just over 53,000 remained stranded Monday in Greece, through which more than a million people from the Middle East and Africa have passed since the beginning of 2015, heading to more prosperous European countries.

Arrivals, mostly in frail smugglers' boats from Turkey, peaked above 200,000 in October. Following last month's EU-Turkey deal the numbers have dropped, with just 1,704 arrivals so far this month — about 189 daily.

About 11,000 migrants live in a tent city on the closed Macedonian border, hoping to continue north, despite repeated appeals from Greek authorities to relocate to organized shelters.