The Latest: Hungary secretly settled refugees in 2013-14
The Associated Press
Sep. 09, 2015
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The latest news as countries across Europe cope with the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees. All times local (CET):
Hungary's minister for human resources says the country secretly settled 1,000 Christian families from Iraq and Egypt last year and in 2013.
Zoltan Balog told state news agency MTI that the families were granted Hungarian citizenship and the option of returning to their homeland whenever they desired.
Balog said Hungary was ready to repeat the action but only in this safe, secret manner.
Hungary's anti-immigration stance has been often criticized and though authorities say they are ready to take in refugees, only around 300 have been taken in so far this year.
The opposition Democratic Coalition said Wednesday that it was "unacceptable" for Hungary to discriminate among refugees based on ethnic or religious grounds.
Greece's coast guard says it is investigating media reports of uniformed men forcing dinghies carrying refugees or migrants to return to Turkey, stressing that anyone found violating the law will be punished.
Wednesday's statement came following a CBS news report that said an unmarked speedboat was seen approaching a dinghy carrying 40 Syrians from Turkey on Tuesday, with unidentified armed, uniformed men cutting the dinghy's fuel line and letting the boat drift. It was later picked up by the Turkish coast guard. The report said it was unclear whether the men were affiliated with the Greek coast guard.
The Greek coast guard said it was investigating the veracity of the claims and stressed such practices were "not consistent with the mission of the Hellenic Coast Guard, the ethos, humanity and professionalism of the members of the force." It noted Greek authorities had safely handled more than 260,000 new arrivals so far this year.
An official for New York-based Human Rights Watch who has visited refugee registration camps in Hungary says asylum-seekers are being treated like animals.
Peter Brouckaert, HRW emergencies director, spoke to The Associated Press at a police-supervised migrant collection point near Hungary's border with Serbia, where thousands arrive daily in hopes of passing through quickly to reach Austria and Germany.
Many end up waiting hours or days in a farm field for buses to take them to a nearby Hungarian registration center. In recent days, frustrated by delays, large groups have forced their way through police lines to walk north along a highway.
"Hungary has become a place of absolute humiliation for the Syrian people and for the other people trying to reach asylum in Europe. They are blocked here. They are suffering in the heat. We see children all over the place collapse in absolute exhaustion," Brouckaert says.
He says Hungarian authorities should "let these people go to where they want to go, which certainly is not Hungary."
Danish railway company DSB says all train service has been halted between Germany and Denmark after Danish police stopped hundreds of migrants arriving by train across the border.
Danish police spokeswoman Anne Soe says about 100 migrants who arrived from Germany on Wednesday are refusing to leave a train in the Danish port city of Roedby. She says they don't want to be registered in Denmark.
Under EU rules people seeking asylum should do so in the first EU country they enter and not travel from one country to another.
Many of the migrants say they want to go to Sweden, Norway or Finland, because they have relatives there or believe that the conditions for asylum-seekers are better.
Authorities in the Polish capital, Warsaw, have banned a protest against Muslim refugees that was planned for the city center on Saturday, saying it is driven by out-of-place hatred.
The decision follows a government announcement that Poland will be able to accept more refugees that the 2,000 originally declared and a declaration from Catholic leaders that the church will do its best to help immigrants.
Predominantly Catholic Poland appears to be gradually opening to the need of helping the plight of Muslims fleeing for their lives. But fears also remain.
Warsaw Deputy Mayor Jaroslaw Jozwiak said Wednesday that the organizers of the protest had used the "language of hatred" to justify it.
Germany's foreign minister is pressing other major powers and Arab nations to ease a funding crunch at the U.N. refugee agency.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has appealed for an extra $30.5 million to help deal with Europe's refugee crisis. Meanwhile, funding shortfalls have forced the U.N. to cut food aid to refugees in countries neighboring Syria over recent months.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country holds the Group of Seven presidency, said Wednesday he will organize a meeting of G-7 countries and Syria's Arab neighbors when the U.N. General Assembly meets later this month.
He told lawmakers his message would be: "If the fate of these people is really close to our hearts, then at least ensure UNHCR gets the necessary money to give them their daily rations."
The United Arab Emirates has defended its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in the face of criticism that oil-rich Gulf states should be doing more to address the issue.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the Emirati government said it has provided residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrians who have entered the country since 2011, and that more than 242,000 Syrian nationals currently live in the country. It did not provide details on the terms.
Residency visas in the Emirates — where foreigners outnumber citizens more than four to one — are typically tied to an employing sponsor or a resident family member, and do not allow for an indefinite stay in the country or an opportunity to acquire Emirati citizenship.
In addition to the visa extensions, the Emirates said it has provided more than $530 million in humanitarian aid and development assistance since 2012 in response to the Syrian crisis.
Part of that aid goes to fund a camp in Jordan that houses more than 4,000 refugees.
Police in southern Denmark have shut down a section of highway after a large group of migrants left the place where they were staying after entering Denmark by train from Germany, and started walking on the highway north of Padborg on the Danish-German border. According to Denmark's TV2, they are chanting "Sweden, Sweden"
Also in southern Denmark, police stopped three trains with migrants who had crossed the strait separating northern Germany and the Danish island of Lolland. A group of up to 35 who fled earlier in the day from the ferry terminal is Roedby have now returned, they said.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says his government's opposition to mandatory quotas for accepting migrants in the EU member states has not changed.
"The compulsory quotas are not a good solution," Sobotka said in a statement. "To continue with a discussion about their establishment all across Europe only prevents us from taking really important and necessary steps."
State Secretary for European Affairs Tomas Prouza told the Czech public television Wednesday: "We consider the quotas nonsensical. They don't solve the problem."
The Czechs argue most of the migrants have been heading for Germany and don't want to stay in the Czech Republic.
Last Friday, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland rejected calls by Germany and some other EU members for compulsory sharing of refugees.
A Hungarian camerawoman has been fired after she was caught on video kicking and tripping migrants entering Hungary across the border with Serbia.
The N1TV Internet channel said their employee, widely identified in Hungarian media as Petra Laszlo, has been dismissed because she "behaved unacceptably" at a makeshift gathering point where police take migrants immediately after they enter Hungary near the village of Roszke.
In videos posted online, Laszlo can be seen kicking at least one migrant in a group trying to break through police lines and tripping a man carrying a small child while also running from police.
N1TV editor-in-chief Szabolcs Kisberk said in a statement late Tuesday that the dismissal was immediate. Much of the channel's content centers on the activities of the far-right Jobbik party
Two German newspapers have published a special supplement in Arabic, welcoming refugees and giving them advice on where to go for services.
The top-selling Bild newspaper and Berlin's BZ, both produced by the same publisher, put out the four-page insert in Wednesday's editions, headlined "Welcome to Berlin; You have finally reached Berlin, what do you need to do now?"
A map of the capital, labeled in Arabic, points out refugee housing centers, health care clinics, playgrounds, language schools offering free courses and other places of importance.
It also includes a short list of Arabic-German phrases, and details on the regulations for asylum seekers.
Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller's message greeting the refugees, also in Arabic, says they will find that "the German capital is an open, tolerant and international metropolis."
Greek authorities say they have completed screening more than 17,000 refugees and migrants stranded in miserable conditions on the island of Lesbos, and most have boarded ferries for the mainland.
A football stadium has been enlisted as a screening center, and police sent more staff and fingerprinting equipment to accelerate the process. Nearly half the migrants reaching Greece in small boats from Turkey arrive on Lesbos, and sleep rough there until they can be registered.
Police said Wednesday the screening center will continue to handle some 3,000-4,000 people who arrive every day.
About 10,000 people left Lesbos this week in ferries for the mainland.
Europe's top human rights organization is calling on governments to treat migrants and asylum-seekers with the same respect and dignity as Europeans receive.
In a letter Wednesday to all 47 member states, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said it was "self-defeating to mistreat or demean any future members of our societies."
He notes that collective expulsions are banned, there must be no discrimination on basis of religion or race, and there should be equal access to food, shelter and health care.
Europe has struggled, in part, because front-line nations such as Hungary and Greece have not put enough facilities in place to house a human flow averaging 2,000 to 3,000 a day while the vast majority of people try to push deeper into Europe and seek refuge in Germany.
Norway's migration agency has turned down an offer from an Oslo mosque to provide shelter for migrants and refugees, saying such housing needs to be religion-neutral.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration is scrambling to find housing for a growing stream of asylum-seekers coming to the wealthy Nordic country.
But agency spokesman John Olav Kroken says the offer from the Islamic Cultural Center, Norway's first mosque, was turned down because housing migrants in a place of worship would be against the rules.
"It cannot be a mosque or a church," he said. "I think they were disappointed because they wanted to help."
The Islamic Cultural Center said it respected the agency's decision and that it would make its premises and staff available to help should the need arise in the future.
Norway received more than 2,300 asylum-seekers in August, the highest monthly number since the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says integrating successful asylum applicants into German society will be a priority and authorities must learn from the past.
Merkel told lawmakers Thursday that a country welcoming many people from other cultures "also must make clear what rules apply here."
Merkel said the government must learn from the experiences of the 1960s, when West Germany allowed in "guest workers" from Turkey and other nations but paid scant attention to integrating them. She says key steps include ensuring that new arrivals learn German and trying to get them into jobs.
She added: "We must not look away if environments solidify in which integration is rejected or if parallel societies develop — there can be no tolerance there."
A group of refugees has arrived in France after an overnight bus trip from Germany, the first among around 1,000 that French President Francois Hollande pledged to receive from the neighboring country.
Hollande committed to accepting 24,000 refugees over two years — approximately the amount that Germany took in over just the past weekend.
French television in Champagne-sur-Seine showed the migrants, including families with young children, leaving a bus and entering a Red Cross tent for coffee. French public opinion is split on how to handle the influx of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has renewed her demand for compulsory sharing of refugees among European Union countries and insisted that the migrant crisis is a challenge for every nation in the 28-member bloc.
Merkel addressed the German parliament's annual budget debate on Wednesday just as the head of the European Union's executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, called for the compulsory relocation among EU countries of another 120,000 refugees.
Germany has taken in more migrants than any other EU country. Merkel said: "We need a binding agreement on a binding distribution of refugees among all member states, according to fair criteria."
Merkel said "it would be a step if we achieved what Jean-Claude Juncker is proposing today" but that the challenge is deeper than just sharing refugees.
The head of the European Union's executive says 22 of the member states should be forced to accept another 120,000 people in need of international protection who have come toward the continent at high risk through Greece, Italy and Hungary.
With the new call to the European Parliament, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that his additional plan would bring the total for emergency relocation to 160,000.
Recalling the lengthy haggling among member states over the spread of the initial 40,000, Juncker said that this time "this has to be done in a compulsory way."
Juncker said he wants his plan endorsed by the member states at a special meeting in Brussels on Monday.