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The Latest: Spain to improve conditions at migrant centers

January 18, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on migrants in Europe (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

Spain’s government says it will improve conditions at its eight migrant detention centers and build another center as authorities struggle to cope with a surge in arrivals from North Africa by sea.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska announced Friday the government intends to “ensure greater respect for people’s dignity and their rights.”

The centers are supposed to house migrants who are illegally in Spain for up to 60 days, but that limit is often exceeded and conditions reportedly are cramped.

Grande-Marlaska says the detainees aren’t convicted of any crimes and are awaiting deportation. Some centers have witnessed riots and mass escape attempts.

The European Union says around 57,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Spain last year. That was double the figure for 2017.

Since coming to power last June, the Socialist government has taken up the cause of the migrants’ plight, showcasing its commitment to human rights and respecting international law.

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11:25 a.m.

German lawmakers have approved a government plan to declare three North African nations and Georgia safe countries of origin, a move meant to deter migrants from those countries and streamline the handling of asylum applications.

Parliament’s lower house on Friday voted 509-138, with four abstentions, to back declaring Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Georgia safe countries.

But the government’s chances of getting the legislation on the books look questionable at best because it requires approval by parliament’s upper house, where the country’s 16 state governments are represented. Many of those governments include the opposition Greens, who object to declaring the North African countries safe. As it is, very few citizens of those countries obtain asylum.

The upper house shot down a similar move in 2017.

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