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The Latest: New Wave of Smuggler Boats Includes 31 Dinghies

The Latest: New Wave of Smuggler Boats Includes 31 Dinghies

Thursday, 23 June 2016 05:10 PM

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

6:55 p.m.

The Italian navy says a new wave of migrant smugglers' boats that set out from Libyan shores and needed rescuing includes 31 rubber dinghies.

The rescue operations are part of efforts that on Thursday alone saw some 4,000 migrants saved, according to the Italian coast guard.

A navy statement says five of its boats helped in the rescue of 14 of the dinghies, for a total of 1,800 men, women and children saved. Migrants aboard the other dinghies were rescued by vessels from the Italian coast guard, a European anti-smuggling naval deployment and ships operated by private aid organizations.

Authorities say Libya-based smugglers concentrated the departures of boats crowded with migrants in a single day because rough seas earlier in the week had prevented launching the unseaworthy fleet.

6:00 p.m.

The European Union's commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, says the EU executive is ready to impose sanctions on member states refusing to accept refugees under a compulsory relocation scheme.

Speaking at a business conference near Athens, Avramopoulos blasted "populist and nationalist leaders" in European countries who have vowed not to abide by the program.

Avramopoulos, a conservative politician from Greece, said the actions by dissenting countries were undermining EU solidarity and their own societies.

He did not refer to any specific countries or the penalties that could be imposed.

Several east European member states, including Hungary and Slovakia, strongly oppose the relocation mechanism and want the EU to overhaul its plans.

5:55 p.m.

Operators of an Austrian outdoor swimming pool have posted a sign saying "today no entry for refugees," after 13-year old girl told police that a man followed her into the women's dressing room and sexually molested her.

The daily Kronen Zeitung said that police are investigating Wednesday's reported attack at the pool in the town of Mistelbach, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Vienna. It cited the girl as saying the man had a dark complexion and fled after she screamed but gave no other details.

The newspaper carried a photo of the sign and said it was put up at the entrance of the pool Thursday.

5:20 p.m.

The Italian coast guard says some 4,000 migrants have been rescued from smugglers' boats off Libya in one day alone.

The coast guard said it coordinated 40 separate Mediterranean rescue operations on Thursday. One operation involved a motorized rubber dinghy where, authorities say, a woman's body was found. More details weren't immediately available.

The high numbers are being attributed to a break in several days of bad weather and rough seas which had kept smugglers, largely based in Libya, from launching boats with migrants and asylum seekers, fleeing conflict and poverty for Europe's southern shores.

The coast guard says it has no immediate information about a report from some in the Eritrean community that a barge with some 400 migrants left Alexandria, Egypt, on Sunday and that its whereabouts are currently unknown.

2:35 p.m.

Hungary and Austria say that the joint protection of the European Union's external borders is needed to solve the migration crisis and maintain passport-free travel within the bloc.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Thursday after meeting Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz that both countries also agree that refugees wanting to come to the EU should apply for asylum before they enter the 28-country alliance, because "once someone enters the EU, they stay even if they are not granted asylum."

Sziijarto said that "decisions are needed which reduce to a minimum the immigration pressure on the EU."

For his part, Kurz said that "in the future, there will be an EU without internal borders only if we protect the external borders of the EU."

2:15 p.m.

German police say they've arrested two people on suspicion of arson some 18 months after fires broke out at three buildings earmarked to serve as accommodation for asylum seekers in Bavaria.

Police said in a brief statement Thursday that the two were suspected of setting the blazes for unspecified "economic reasons" and not out of anti-foreigner motives. Further details were to be released Friday.

At the time of the fires in December 2014 in the town of Vorra, near Nuremberg, Germany was struggling to deal with an influx of migrants and authorities had suspected anti-foreigner sentiment was behind the attack.

Nobody was in the buildings at the time and the blazes were quickly extinguished.

12:10 p.m.

Police in an Interpol-led operation have arrested 26 people across several countries accused of involvement in migrant-smuggling — and the international police agency wants the public's help to find suspects still at large.

European police authorities say organized crime networks are playing a big role in Europe's migrant crisis, earning up to $6 billion in revenue last year by capitalizing on migrants' desperation.

Interpol said in a statement that those arrested in the 24-country operation in May include a Moroccan suspected of selling Belgian identity cards to Syrian migrants, and an Albanian group charging migrants 14,000 euros to travel across the English Channel by boat.

Interpol released appeals Thursday for help finding 11 other people from several countries accused of illegally smuggling Iraqis, Afghans and other migrants.

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The Latest on Europe's response to the influx of migrants and asylum seekers (all times local):6:55 p.m.The Italian navy says a new wave of migrant smugglers' boats that set out from Libyan shores and needed rescuing includes 31 rubber dinghies.The rescue operations are...
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Thursday, 23 June 2016 05:10 PM
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