The Latest: EU boosts naval mission in Mediterranean

AP News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2016 8:56 AM
The Latest: EU boosts naval mission in Mediterranean

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

15:55 p.m.

The European Union is boosting the role of its naval operation in the Mediterranean as increasing numbers of desperate migrants set off from Libya in unseaworthy boats.

EU foreign ministers agreed Monday at talks in Luxembourg to extend Operation Sophia by a year to July 2017 and tasked it with building up Libya's coastguard and navy.

The EU wants to move the operation into Libyan waters, and longer-term on land, to thwart migrant smugglers. But divisions in Libya have delayed the broad recognition of a national unity government that would approve the move.

The West hopes Libya's new government will unify the country and help combat the Islamic State affiliate there.

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15:10 p.m.

Serbian police say they have found 53 migrants hidden in a van in southern Serbia.

Police said Monday they have arrested one person suspected of smuggling the migrants who were hoping to reach the European Union.

Dozens of migrants have been caught in Serbia recently.

EU nations have sought to control the arrivals after more than 1 million refugees and other migrants entered last year. Most are fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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14:45 p.m.

The regional head of the U.N.'s refugee agency says Hungary's plan to close its refugee reception centers will make it much more difficult for people granted asylum to integrate, forcing them to leave the country.

Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the UNHCR representative in Central Europe, said Monday it is a "major problem" that conditions in the countries refugees are fleeing from have not improved and that it is now much harder for them to seek protection in Europe.

Feixas Vihe spoke at the opening of a photo exhibit about refugees at Budapest's Keleti railway terminal. Last year, thousands of migrants passed through the terminal each day on their way to Germany and other western destinations before Hungary built fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia.

Feixas Vihe said that the closing of the centers "means Hungary will not be a place where they can be. They will be forced to go."

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11:45 a.m.

Human Rights Watch is urging the EU to stop returning Syrian refugees to Turkey citing a lack of refugee rights.

It said in a statement Monday that refugees in Turkey lack access to jobs, education and health care.

The group's Stephanie Gee said "it is hardly surprising that many are not getting the support they desperately need to maintain livelihoods," considering Turkey is host to over 2 million Syrian refugees.

An EU-Turkey agreement allows Greece to return Syrian asylum seekers to Turkey on the basis it is a "safe third country."

HRW said "safe" should mean not just protection from war or prosecution, but should also include the right to work, health care and education.

The deal is part of efforts to stem the tide of migrants to Europe.