BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s response to the influx of refugees (all times local):
Greek police have arrested an elderly fisherman suspected of illegally ferrying back to Turkey Syrian refugees fed up with being stuck in the financially struggling country.
Police say the 70-year-old was caught Tuesday near the border town of Didymoteicho. He was allegedly trying to carry nine refugees across the Evros River, which forms the Greek-Turkish frontier, in his eight-meter (26-foot) boat.
Police said he charged 50 euros per passenger. The arrest was announced Wednesday.
About 57,000 refugees and other migrants have been trapped in Greece since Balkan border closures in March shut down the migrant route towards Europe’s prosperous heartland. Over a million migrants had taken that route over the previous year. All entered through Turkey, and didn’t want to stay in Greece.
Several Syrians are now trying to return home.
New European Union figures show that member states have relocated just over 2,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over the past nine months.
The figures were released Wednesday, nine months after the EU pledged to jointly take in 160,000 refugees. The EU says that 6,000 refugees must be relocated each month for the plan to work.
The EU’s top migration official Dmitris Avramopoulos said the figure “clearly falls short,” and he repeated past warnings that “member states have to speed up their efforts. There is no time to lose.”
As of June 14, the total number of people relocated was 2,280, including 1,503 from Greece and 777 from Italy.
The plan was meant to help the overburdened entry countries cope with hundreds of thousands of migrants who entered Europe last year.
The European Union says its agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants is producing results but more remains to be done.
Top EU migration official Dmitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that “we have seen some positive progress,” including the return of 462 migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey since March 20.
But he added: “Work still has to be done. Both sides need to deliver.”
Human rights group Amnesty International said the results are nothing to be proud of.
Iverna McGowan, head of Amnesty’s EU office, said “the results are thousands of people stranded in dire conditions in Greece, refugees being forced back across Turkey’s border with Syria, and Syrians being at risk of deportation from Greece to Turkey.”
A Turkish official says a deal with the European Union to curb illegal migration has led to a “sharp decline in irregular crossings.”
Speaking to journalists in Istanbul, the official said Wednesday some 462 migrants of various nationalities had been sent from the Greek islands back to Turkey. In line with the agreement, 508 Syrians who were living in Turkish refugee camps have been relocated to Europe since April 1.
The EU has agreed to receive one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian that Greece sends to Turkey.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the issue.
More than 3,400 migrants died or were recorded as missing as they tried to cross borders around the globe in this year’s first five months — over 80 percent of them trying to reach Europe by sea, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday.
The number is 12 percent above the 2,780 deaths or disappearances recorded during the same period in 2015. Over the whole of last year, the IOM estimated Wednesday that 5,400 migrants died or were reported missing worldwide.
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