The Latest: Afghan, Sudanese migrants clash in Calais camp

AP News
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Posted: May 26, 2016 2:26 PM
The Latest: Afghan, Sudanese migrants clash in Calais camp

ROME (AP) — The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):

8:25 p.m.

French police say there have been violent clashes between Afghan and Sudanese migrants at Calais' sprawling makeshift camp and several huts were set on fire.

Police official Steve Barbet told The Associated Press some 300 to 400 migrants began fighting Thursday afternoon near the food distribution point, though he said the cause of the standoff remains unknown.

Forty people were injured but none is in a life-threatening condition.

An hour later, migrants set fire to some of the makeshift huts. Some 70 firefighters rapidly extinguished the blaze and there were no injuries. A police inquiry has been launched into the incidents

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8 p.m.

A French court has acquitted a former Foreign Legion commander who took part in an outlawed anti-migrant protest in February in Calais, a northern port city hosting a sprawling migrant camp.

A judge in nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer ruled Thursday that four-star general Christian Piquemal was actually leaving the protest after the police warnings and disband orders when he was arrested on Feb 6.

With some 150 other people, the 75-year-old former head of the prestigious French Foreign Legion army corps defied a ban on a demonstration to protest against "the insecurity generated by the presence of many migrants" in Calais and to call for "saving our country, our culture, our future".

The protest, organized by the anti-Islam movement PEGIDA, took place a few weeks before French authorities ordered a mass eviction in part of the slum camp where thousands of migrants have gathered to try to sneak across the English Channel to Britain.

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6:50 p.m.

The Italian coast guard says some 4,000 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in 22 separate operations in one day.

Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro says Thursday that number may well be a record, given the previous highs of migrant rescues have been up to 6,000 over two days.

Tens of thousands of desperate migrants have been leaving the lawless coast of Libya in decrepit smuggling boats, hoping to reach the shores of Italy's southern islands. Many of the boats sink or capsize, and hundreds drown each year along the journey.

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6:30 p.m.

Hungary says some 52,000 migrants who countries like Germany and Sweden want to expel back to Hungary should be returned to instead to Greece because that's where they first entered the 28-nation European Union.

Janos Lazar, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff, says Thursday that "no one can be expelled to Hungary" and that "Greece should take back these illegal migrants."

Nearly 400,000 refugees passed through Hungary last year on their way to richer EU destinations. The flow was slowed greatly by Hungary's construction of razor-wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia.

Lazar also says it is "contradictory" for the EU to recognize Turkey as a safe country for migrants while not wanting to send them back to EU member Greece. Hungary also opposes EU quotas to resettle migrants.

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5:15 p.m.

An Italian navy patrol ship has arrived in Sicily with survivors of a dramatic capsizing of an overcrowded migrant boat off Libya.

At least one of the survivors was brought off the Bettica on a stretcher. Others with their arms wrapped in gauze walked gingerly down the ramp into Porto Empedocle off Agrigento. Rescue workers carried children down.

The Italian navy released footage of the moment Wednesday in which the rust-hulled smugglers' boat rocked under the weight of its passengers and flipped, sending the desperate would-be refugees into the sea.

The navy said five bodies were recovered.

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4:10 p.m.

European Union lawmakers have agreed that Sweden deserves an extra year to take in asylum-seekers under a plan agreed last year to share out tens of thousands.

The agreement in September was to distribute 160,000 refugees currently in overwhelmed Greece and Italy among other EU partners over the next two years.

Sweden was to take in some 5,700 people. But the EU lawmakers voted by 396 to 190, with 50 abstentions, to grant more time because Sweden already has the EU's highest per-capita rate of asylum applicants.

The relocation plan has struggled to get off the ground, with only 1,500 refugees moved out of Greece and Italy in nine months.

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3:55 p.m.

The EU Mediterranean rescue mission says it has located about 20 bodies in the seas off Libya's coast after a migrant boat sank.

Navy Lt. Rino Gentile of the EUNAVFOR operation told The Associated Press that the sinking dinghy was first spotted by one of its aircraft. Both the Italian coast guard and the Spanish frigate Reina Sofia intervened.

He said some 20 bodies were located in the sea. Earlier, Italian coast guard reported 88 people had been saved.

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3:20 p.m.

Greek authorities say they have completed the evacuation of the country's biggest informal refugee and other migrant camp on the Macedonian border.

Public Order Minister Nikos Toskas says the Idomeni camp is now empty. At its peak, it hosted some 14,000 people trapped by Balkan border closures.

Greek police say the last 783 people were bused out of the tent city Thursday and taken to official shelters in other parts of northern Greece.

A total 3,000 people were taken to official shelters Tuesday and Wednesday.

Just before the evacuation Idomeni had 8,400 occupants, according to official figures, and it's unclear where all those who didn't get the buses to other camps are. Several have set up new informal camps in the vicinity.

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3:10 p.m.

A Libyan navy spokesman says a total of 766 migrants have been rescued by Libyan coast guards.

Col. Ayoub Gassim told The Associated Press that the rescued migrants were found in two groups: one of 550 near the western coast city of Sabratha and the second of 216 off Zwara. He added that the rescue missions took place on Thursday.

He also said that two boats were found empty in the area between the two cities, and only four bodies were retrieved while the rest of its migrants are feared dead. He didn't elaborate, saying that he doesn't have enough details about the empty boats.

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3 p.m.

Albanian naval and air forces, law enforcement and emergency bodies have held exercises in the Adriatic Sea to prepare for the event of humanitarian situations in a refugee crisis.

The exercises on Thursday were held at Cape of Pali, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the capital, Tirana, and included training on how to transport refugees from a ship to a helicopter or when a ship refuses to be boarded.

Albania hasn't been part of the transit route for migrants through Europe so far, with only a few of them crossing into its territory and being turned back. Tirana says it doesn't have the capacity to shelter refugees, but will accept a number of them if Europe decides to distribute them between countries under a coordinated plan.

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2:55 p.m.

Italy's coast guard says a migrant boat has overturned off Libya's coast with an unknown number of passengers on board. It says so far 88 people have been rescued.

Coast Guard. Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro told The Associated Press the capsized boat was first spotted Thursday by an aircraft participating in the European Union monitoring operation. The Italian coast guard responded with two rescue vessels to the location some 30 miles (50 kilometers) off Libya's coast.

Nicastro said 88 people had been rescued from the capsized wooden boat. He said he didn't have any information about whether any bodies were recovered or how big the boat was.

It is one of about 20 search-and-rescue operations underway Thursday. Nicastro said of the eight operations concluded, some 1,000 migrants have been rescued.