The Latest: Migrants gather in Greece for Balkan crossing
ROME (AP) — The Latest on migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe (all times local):
Hundreds of migrants are gathering outside a camp near the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, planning a long trek through heavily guarded Balkan borders to seek asylum in Europe’s prosperous heartland.
Police said more than 500 people, including families with small children, gathered Thursday in a cornfield outside the Diavata migrant camp, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Thessaloniki, some setting up tents. Dozens more were approaching on foot.
Migrants said they were responding to an anonymous call on social media to go to Greece’s border with North Macedonia 60 kilometers (38 miles) away and push through, reviving a migration route that was firmly shut down in 2016.
The United Nations refugee agency has warned migrants against the social media calls, saying irregular border crossings are “risky and dangerous.”
A humanitarian ship with 64 rescued migrants aboard is stuck at sea as Italy and Malta refuse it safe harbor.
Their refusal sets the stage for another Mediterranean standoff that can only be resolved if European governments agree to accept the asylum-seekers.
Carlotta Weibl, spokeswoman for the German humanitarian organization Sea-Eye, said Thursday that the ship was near the Italian island of Lampedusa: “Malta says we can’t enter their waters and we are unlikely to get permission from Italy.”
Sea-Eye’s ship, the Alan Kurdi, rescued the migrants on Wednesday near Libya.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the German ship should “go to Hamburg.”
But Weibl said “it’s a journey of 3-4 weeks. We don’t have food and water, so it’s completely out of question.”