The Latest: 4 dead, 6 rescued off Greek island of Lesbos

AP News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2016 8:26 AM
The Latest: 4 dead, 6 rescued off Greek island of Lesbos

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Europe's response to mass influx of migrants and asylum seekers (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

Greek authorities have recovered four bodies and rescued six people — five men and one woman —after a boat full of migrants overturned off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

A large search-and-rescue operation was taking place in the area Wednesday to search for more possible survivors. The survivors and the bodies — of a girl, a boy, a man and a woman — were taken to a hospital in the island's town of Mytilene.

The coast guard said two of its patrol boats, as well as two navy ships, an air force helicopter, a tugboat, and three vessels and a helicopter from the European border patrol agency Frontex were involved in the search.

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1:40 p.m.

Greek authorities have arrested 29 people, including a policeman, suspected of participating in two smuggling rings taking some 600 migrants into Greece from Turkey.

Police said Wednesday the suspects were arrested following a months-long investigation. The police officer was suspended pending an investigation, while those arrested include two men who police suspect were the heads of the networks.

The smugglers allegedly picked up the refugees in the Evros border region, transporting them to Athens or the northern city of Thessaloniki. One group is accused of having transported about 400 people between December 2015 and April 2016, and the second about 200 people between September and May.

The policeman was serving in Evros and is accused of providing information on police deployments there to the chief of the second smuggling ring.

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12:10 p.m.

The European Union's executive arm is proposing new EU-wide rules for granting asylum and resettlement for migrants, among the most controversial of political issues in many European countries. The proposals were made public Wednesday by EU officials.

In a statement, EU Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said the proposed reforms "will make sure that persons in genuine need of international protection get it quickly, but also that those who do not have the right to receive protection in the EU can be returned swiftly."

The proposals, which must be approved by the European Parliament and the EU member states to take effect, include provisions to discourage so-called "asylum shopping," where applicants go from one EU country to another looking for the best deal.

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7:50 a.m.

Greece's coast guard says a search and rescue operation is underway off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos after a boat carrying migrants overturned.

The coast guard said Wednesday that two survivors had been rescued, and had told authorities they had been in an inflatable dinghy with another nine people when the vessel capsized as it headed to the island from the nearby Turkish coast.

Vessels from the Greek coast guard and the European border agency Frontex were searching for the missing.

Lesbos has been the main arrival point for hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants heading to Europe. But numbers of new arrivals have fallen dramatically following a March deal between the Eurooean Union and Turkey to limit the refugee flow.