The Latest: Renzi: There is no migrant 'invasion' of Italy

AP News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2016 12:20 PM
The Latest: Renzi: There is no migrant 'invasion' of Italy

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Latest on developments in Europe's migration crisis (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

Premier Matteo Renzi is trying to reassure his fellow Italians there is no migrant "invasion" of Italy.

Renzi said Friday the number of migrants brought to Italian shores after rescue at sea so far this year is "barely" higher than in the same period in 2014, the peak year for such arrivals in Italy. He put the tally this year through mid-April at roughly 24,000.

Austria has said it would close the main Brenner border crossing from Italy if the influx of migrants becomes "extreme." Many expect an EU-Turkey deal tightening a Balkans route will send migrants and refugees via sea to Italy and then northward.

Renzi calls the Brenner crossing an important symbol, vital to Italian businesses transporting goods northward, and is urging Austria to respect EU border rules.

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3:15 p.m.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says Italy appears on track to take in at least 100,000 migrants from North Africa across the Mediterranean for the third straight year in 2016.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman says more than 6,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in the last week, with nearly all crossing to Italy - and only 300 crossing from Turkey to Greece, a route that has taken over 1 million people since the start of 2015.

Millman said Friday it was too early to assess whether a European Union-Turkey deal on the return of refugees from Greece to Turkey was causing a shift in the patterns of movement of Syrians fleeing to Europe. He noted that more than 40,000 people made the journey from Syria through Egypt, Libya and then to Italy in 2014.

He said more than 24,000 people had crossed into Italy so far this year, and the "high season" of migration in the spring and summer was just beginning now.

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11:25 a.m.

Human Rights Watch has urged Turkey to allow thousands of Syrians fleeing fighting between rebels and the Islamic State group to cross the Turkish border to seek protection.

In a statement released late Thursday, the advocacy group quoted a Syrian refugee who said Turkish border guards shot at hundreds of people fleeing IS as they approached a border wall.

"As civilians flee ISIS fighters, Turkey is responding with live ammunition instead of compassion," said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The whole world is talking about fighting ISIS, and yet those most at risk of becoming victims of its horrific abuses are trapped on the wrong side of a concrete wall."

Turkish officials say they were aware of the report but had no immediate response.