The Latest: France says some aid groups help smugglers
MILAN (AP) — The Latest on migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe (all times local):
France’s interior minister says some aid groups operating in the Mediterranean Sea sometimes act like accomplices to human traffickers.
Minister Christophe Castaner pointed at “a real collusion between smugglers and some NGOs,” including through phone contacts to “facilitate the migrants’ departure from Libyan coasts in appalling conditions.”
The comments at a G-7 meeting in Paris are similar to those of his Italian counterpart, Matteo Salvini, who reaffirmed his hard-line stance on immigration.
Castaner, a member of French President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-European government, said he has clear political differences with Salvini, the leader of Italy’s anti-migrant League party, but stressed that both countries were now cooperating on migration issues.
Germany says it has asked the European Commission to find a safe port for a German humanitarian group’s boat carrying 64 rescued migrants. Berlin says it is willing to take some of them in but expects European partners to do so as well.
The group, Sea-Eye, asked Berlin to use diplomatic channels to find a port for the migrants on the Alan Kurdi ship. Malta and Italy have refused to open ports to humanitarian rescue ships, saying their activities encourage smugglers.
German Interior Ministry spokesman Stefan Ruwwe-Gloesenkamp said Berlin has asked the European Union’s executive Commission to coordinate the search for a safe port. He said Germany trusts that “a large number of member states” will be prepared to take in migrants and Berlin is ready to do “its part.”
Protesting migrants in Greece have blocked Athens’ main train station and disrupted rail services, apparently prompted by false reports on social media that restrictions on travel to northern Europe had been lifted.
Police said about 300 protesters gathered Friday at Larissis Station near central Athens, with many sitting on the tracks in front of trains.
Authorities did not immediately intervene to disperse the demonstrators, while officials from the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, were trying to persuade them to leave voluntarily.
The protest occurred a day after clashes broke out near a camp for refugees and migrants in northern Greece, after protesters tried to break through a police cordon and reach the border with North Macedonia, which has been fenced off and heavily policed for the past three years.
The German humanitarian group Sea-Eye says it is asking Berlin to use diplomatic channels to find a safe port for the 64 migrants it rescued off Libya earlier this week.
Sea-Watch spokesman Carlotta Weibl said Friday that the rescue boat Alan Kurdi remains in international waters off Lampedusa and will not approach Italy’s southernmost island until it has permission.
She said conditions on board were worsening and that a storm was approaching. She said a request has been made to the German foreign ministry to find a solution.
Malta and Italy have refused to open ports to humanitarian rescue ships, saying their activities encourage smugglers to pack unseaworthy rubber dinghies with migrants looking for sanctuary in Europe.