The Latest: Far-right protests as refugee kids go to school

AP News
Posted: Feb 21, 2017 12:26 PM

CAIRO (AP) — The Latest on response to wave of migration to Europe (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

Greek authorities have blocked access to a northern primary school after threatening far-right protests over a handful of refugee children attending afternoon classes there.

Police buses were parked outside the school's main entrance Tuesday at Oreokastro, north of Thessaloniki, to keep away protesters, while the nine Kurdish children aged 7-11 from a nearby refugee camp were escorted in. One man was arrested for allegedly breaking anti-racism laws.

Several parents at the school are keeping their own children away — even though the refugees are attending after classes for Greek children are over.

Two dozen far-right supporters, some in motorcycle helmets and hoods, protested outside the school Monday. They oppose the refugee children attending because they are foreign and not Christian.

Leftists have mounted a counter-protest.


4:30 p.m.

Serbian police say they have foiled two attempts to smuggle a total of 41 migrants through the country.

Police said in a statement on Tuesday they discovered 32 migrants crammed in a van near Belgrade while an additional nine have been found in a house in the capital.

Police say both the van driver and the house owner are facing charges of people smuggling. They say the migrants were from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

Thousands of migrants have been stuck in Serbia while looking for ways to reach western Europe. Many seek the help of people-smugglers to take them over the heavily guarded borders of neighboring EU nations Croatia and Hungary.


12:40 p.m.

Pope Francis is calling for humanitarian corridors to protect refugees fleeing their homelands and denouncing the "populist rhetoric" that is closing doors in their faces.

In a speech Tuesday to an international forum on migration and peace, Francis also demanded justice and redress for migrants and the poor who have been exploited by the wealthy. He said the world can no longer sustain "unacceptable economic inequality" that destroys the planet and forces people to leave their homes.

He said: "One group of individuals cannot control half of the world's resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs."

It's a theme the world's first Latin American pope has emphasized during his four-year papacy, most stridently in his 2015 environmental encyclical


10:30 a.m.

Scores of bodies of African migrants washed ashore in Libya, in the western city of Zawiya on the Mediterranean Sea, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent said on Tuesday.

The drownings — at least 74 bodies were found in Zawiya — are the latest tragedy at sea after migrant deaths rose to record levels along the Libya-Italy smuggling route over the past months.

The Red Crescent's spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati told The Associated Press that the bodies were found Monday morning.

Last week, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016.

According to Leggeri, migrant deaths along the central Mediterranean route stood at 4,579 for last year, which still might be much less than the true loss of life. That's compared to 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.

There is little sign of the surge is abating, even during wintertime. There were 228 recorded deaths in January, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years. Leggeri blamed the very small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers for the high death rate.