The Latest: Europol: 23 suspected smugglers arrested
Dec. 02, 2015
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The latest news as tens of thousands of people slip into Europe and head to wealthy European Union countries in search of a better life. All times local.
The European Union's police agency says 23 suspects have been arrested in raids targeting an organized crime gang that smuggled thousands of migrants into Europe.
Europol says the suspects were detained in simultaneous police operations Wednesday in Greece, Austria, Sweden and Britain. Europol, which helped coordinate the raids, says the gang is believed to have earned nearly 10 million euros by smuggling around 100 migrants per day since operations started in 2013.
The suspects included mainly Syrians and Greeks. The alleged ringleader was arrested in the British city of Liverpool. None of their identities have been released.
Europol says the gang is believed to have smuggled migrants, most of them Syrians arriving from Turkey, through Greece and then via the Balkans to other EU member states. The gang did everything from arranging transport to supplying forged travel documents.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country's forces in Afghanistan will do more to train local security agencies to deal with human trafficking and other issues related to people fleeing to seek asylum elsewhere.
Speaking after talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Merkel said Germany's training of Afghan police forces will also include dealing with smugglers and falsified passports.
She says there's a "need to empower the Afghan security forces not only with respect to the security situation, but also with regard to refugee movements and illegal migration."
Germany's trying to reduce the number of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, saying there are safe places in their own country.
Ghani says many Afghans have misperceptions about what fleeing to Germany can mean and often "can lose everything along the way."
Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany wants to support the creation of safe areas inside Afghanistan to provide "people who live in places of insecurity with a zone where their security is guaranteed."
She spoke after a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Berlin on Wednesday, at which the two leaders discussed ways in which Germany could help Afghanistan and stem the flow of Afghan migrants to Germany.
Ghani says to keep Afghans in the country "people need three things: first they need jobs, second they need vocational training to be able to have jobs and third they need housing."
Ghani says Germany can help with all of that, and says "German assistance is directed to 30 million, not 30,000 people. We need to weigh what is at stake."
Slovakia's prime minister, Robert Fico, says his government has filed a complaint to challenge a European Union decision to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers among the bloc's 28 nations.
Immediately after the refugee-sharing move was approved by EU ministers in September, Fico said Slovakia was not ready to accept the plan and was planning a legal complaint at an EU court in Luxembourg.
Slovakia voted against the plan along with the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. Slovakia has not been hit by the recent wave of migrants heading for Germany and other rich Western countries.
Fico said the complaint was filed Wednesday morning and asks the court to rule that the decision taken by a majority vote of EU interior ministers is invalid.
Macedonian police have used pepper spray and stun grenades to repel a group of several hundred migrants attempting to cross north into the country from neighboring Greece.
Macedonia is only allowing people from countries facing war — namely Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq — to cross from Greece, leaving hundreds of others from countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and north African nations stranded at the border. In recent days, Macedonian authorities have erected a fence to control the flow of people at the border and prevent others from crossing.
A group of about 400 people, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, attempted Wednesday to cross through a creek at a point without the fence, and were repelled by Macedonian authorities.
Greece's migration minister says his country has come under "intense pressure" from some European countries over the migration crisis, but he says that's unfair.
Reacting to a story in the Financial Times, Ioannis Mouzalas told reporters that Wednesday that no official threat has been made to eject Greece from Europe's borderless Schengen area. He says accusations by unidentified European officials in the FT story were a mixture of "reality and myth."
Greece has been the main point of entry into the EU for about 700,000 migrants and refugees so far this year.
Mouzalas says: "It's true that our country has come under intense pressure from some European Union member countries who mistakenly believe that the refugee flow can be controlled from Greece. As we've repeatedly stated and as Europe has belatedly understood, Greece is the start of the corridor. The door is in Turkey. Therefore if the flows are not controlled in Turkey, from the coast of Turkey, it is impossible to control the flows from Greece or any other European Union member."
Hungary's prime minister says he believe a secret pact led by Germany to bring up to 500,000 Syrians from Turkey directly into the European Union to be revealed soon.
Viktor Orban said Wednesday that a similar idea was rejected recently by European national leaders but that "the cat will be out of the bag" and the scheme will be announced in Berlin as soon as this week.
Orban says "this secret agreement exists and we will be confronted by it in the coming days."
He says the plan includes forcing all EU countries to take in some migrants, even if they are opposed to mandatory quotas.
Orban said there will be "huge pressure" on countries like Hungary and others to take part.