ROME (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s response to the wave of migration from the Middle East and elsewhere (all times local):
The Greek coast guard says 78 refugees have been rescued from crippled smugglers’ boats in two separate incidents in the eastern Aegean Sea.
A patrol vessel from the European Union’s Frontex border agency picked up 56 people off the island of Chios on Thursday, and a Greek coast guard launch rescued another 22 off the nearby islet of Panaghia.
More than 1 million refugees and other migrants have reached the Greek islands from nearby Turkey since the beginning of 2015, on their way to Europe’s prosperous heartland.
But arrivals have decreased sharply after March 20, when an agreement between the European Union and Turkey on addressing the influx came into effect.
A total of 87 people reached the Greek islands on Wednesday.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said there’s much agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a development strategy is needed for Africa to help ease the migrant crisis.
Migrant issues were a major topic of discussion between the two leaders at a working lunch in Rome Thursday.
Many of the migrants who are brought to Italian shores after rescue from smugglers’ boats are fleeing poverty. Most aren’t eligible for asylum in the European Union and face deportation.
Renzi told reporters there is “total” agreement with Merkel that long-term strategy to spur job development in Africa is needed and that “Europe must take the leadership on this.”
Funding for such development remains to be resolved.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is warning that Europe risks succumbing to nationalism by closing borders as a solution to the migrant crisis.
Austria has said it will close the key Brenner crossing with Italy if necessary to stop the flow of asylum-seekers and other migrants northward, after they are rescued from smugglers’ boats off Italy’s coast.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, after holding talks in Rome with Merkel Thursday, described Austria’s strategy as “mistaken,” ”anachronistic” and “unjustified.”
Merkel told reporters the migrant crisis must be resolved “in a way different from closing borders.”
She added: “We can’t close borders … We must be loyal to each other.”
Merkel says EU nations must defend the Schengen border-free travel agreement or “else we risk falling back into nationalism.”
A top aide to Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says Rome supports a proposal by the European Union’s executive to fine nations for refusing migrants they were supposed to accept.
Fewer than 600 of 40,000 asylum-seekers who were supposed to be relocated from Italy to other EU countries have been transferred since October.
On Thursday, the European Commission proposed that countries refusing to accept migrants should face fines of 250,000 euros ($287,000) per person rejected.
Undersecretary for European Affairs Sandro Gozi said Thursday that Italy backs the proposal.
He says it’s “unacceptable” some didn’t honor their obligation to accept asylum-seekers who were supposed to be relocated from Italy, Greece and Hungary.
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