The Latest: Slovenia approves tightening of asylum rules

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Posted: Jan 26, 2017 5:05 PM
The Latest: Slovenia approves tightening of asylum rules

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the Europe migrant influx (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

Slovenia's lawmakers have backed overwhelmingly a controversial tightening of asylum procedures designed to avert a big influx of migrants into the country.

Parliament voted 47-18 on Thursday to approve amendments to the country's existing asylum laws that could be invoked if there is a surge in asylum-seekers.

The changes would allow police officers to turn away people at the border or send back those who crossed illegally, but only for a limited period and in special circumstances.

Officials have insisted the measures are necessary, but human rights groups say they violate international laws.

Amnesty International has described the changes as a "serious backward step for human rights in Slovenia."

Hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through Slovenia last year before countries in the Balkans closed their borders.

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7:00 p.m.

Serbia's customs authorities say searches for migrants hidden in trucks is slowing cargo traffic with neighboring EU nations Croatia and Hungary.

A statement says trucks have been waiting for several hours in long columns that have formed to cross the borders. Serbian customs authorities say Croatia and Hungary have explained the slowdown in entry procedure is because of thorough checks of the trucks for migrants hiding inside.

Migrants attempting to cross illegally into Western Europe often try to hide among cargo. Serbian authorities say over the past several days they have discovered 17 men from Syria and Afghanistan in three trucks heading toward France and Italy.

Thousands of migrants have been stranded in Serbia and looking for ways to cross illegally into the European Union.

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11:40 a.m.

Three employees with Swedish broadcaster SVT face charges of having smuggled a 15-year-old Syrian boy to the Scandinavian country during the 2015 migrant influx that swept across Europe.

Reporter Fredrik Onnevall was making a documentary on the migrants when he met the unaccompanied minor in Greece who wanted to go to Sweden. One of Europe's top destinations, Sweden received a record 163,000 asylum applications in 2015.

Onnevall, his cameraman and interpreter appeared before Malmo's District Court, saying they were documenting the teenager's trip by car, ferry and train. Onnevall admitted paying for a car rental knowing the boy had false papers. In Sweden, the boy was granted permanent asylum.

It wasn't immediately clear when a verdict was expected.

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11:25 a.m.

The European Union's top migration official is urging EU countries to agree on a way to fairly distribute the load of migrant arrivals, as the bloc's plan to share refugees languishes.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Thursday that member states must finally define the notion of "solidarity," as Greece and Italy struggle to deal with tens of thousands of migrants.

He said "it's the moment for all of us to interpret in the same way this term. It's absolutely necessary."

EU nations agreed in September 2015 to share 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy over two years. But only around 11,000 refugees have been shifted, seven months before the plan expires.

Earlier this week, Avramopoulos ruled out taking action soon against countries not respecting the legally binding deal.