Oct 30, 2015 2:51 PM

The Latest: Group: 77 kids drown at sea since Syrian boy

The Associated Press

LESBOS, Greece (AP) The latest in the odyssey of hundreds of thousands of people crossing Europe in search of a new life. All times local.

8:45 p.m.

A migration group says at least 77 children have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe since the lifeless body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach made worldwide headlines two months ago.

The International Organization for Migration says over 724,000 people seeking refuge in Europe have crossed the Mediterranean this year, 80 percent of them between Turkey and Greece. As of Friday morning, the agency said 3,329 people had died trying.

The potentially deadly nature of the crossing came to light again with the capsizing or sinking of several smugglers' boats Friday in the Aegean. IOM says at least eight children were among the dead.

Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi was found dead Sept. 2 as his family sought to reach Greece from Turkey.


8:30 p.m.

Greek authorities have raised the death toll from Wednesday's sinking of a boat crammed with 300 migrants in the eastern Aegean Sea to 29, from 16.

The Merchant Marine Ministry said late Friday that a total 274 people have been rescued from the sea off the northern coast of Lesbos island, in a frantic operation that joined coast guard vessels, a helicopter, fishing boats and search teams on land.

Many of the dead were young children and babies.

Lesbos is the main destination for hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa, seeking a better life in the European Union. They cross in unseaworthy boats from Turkey, paying smuggling gangs large sums for the service.


7:30 p.m.

Greek authorities say one more refugee has died and 37 people have been rescued after a smuggling boat heading to the eastern island of Lesbos sank in the Aegean Sea.

The coast guard said Friday that no one was missing after sinking off the island's northern shores. That raises to 23 the number of refugees who have drown at sea since late Thursday in Greek waters alone.

Lesbos is where most asylum-seekers land in their quest to enter Europe, after paying Turkish smuggling gangs to get them a berth on frail, unseaworthy craft.


6:40 p.m.

Refugees from Syria and Iraq are blaming young men from Afghanistan and other countries for increasing tensions at the overcrowded border crossing between Slovenia and Austria.

Hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi men formed a human chain Friday to separate their women, children and the elderly from the mostly single men whom they accuse of pushing the crowds over metal barriers set up by border police.

Ashref Nouriki, an asylum-seekers from Iraq, says "they don't care for the families, they don't care for the kids ... they are just pushing and pushing." He adds the protection line that some refugees created was "all Iraqi and Syrian, hand in hand."

Thousands of asylum-seekers have been crammed into a small space at the Sentilj-Spielfeld crossing, with some pushing forward, jumping over the barriers and trampling others. The crossing procedure has been slow, keeping the refugees waiting in long lines outside in the cold for hours.

Nouriki told reporters "Please help us!"


5:50 p.m.

Austrian police say the situation at a crowded border passage with Slovenia, where migrants have been pushing their way forward, is tense but under control.

A spokesman, Leo Josefus said Friday that providing transport further inland for thousands of asylum seekers arriving to the Sentilj-Spielfeld crossing is a priority.

He says "we have a continuous stream of people from Slovenia, but it is under control."

Crammed behind metal barriers, migrants have been pushing through and jumping over, with some people collapsing and getting trampled in the chaos. Migrant tempers have flared after standing long hours in cold weather without moving.


5:20 p.m.

Officials in Berlin say Germany isn't to blame for the hardships facing asylum-seekers face at the country's border with Austria.

Hundreds of people have been kept waiting outside in frigid conditions for hours at a time in recent days as German officials tried to process new arrivals one by one.

German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Friday authorities were working hard to improve conditions but "in the border region where people arrive, there aren't an unlimited number of field beds."

Wirtz dismissed the suggestion that refugees are rushing in, fearing that Europe will make it harder for them to enter soon. She told reporters that Chancellor Angela Merkel "hasn't said we're closing the borders to Germany, or anything like that."


3:40 p.m.

Hungary's foreign minister, saying the refugee crisis is the biggest challenge the European Union has ever faced, is accusing critics of his country's closed-borders policy of "hypocrisy."

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also argues that people making their way through the western Balkans are economic migrants rather than refugees, because when they reach the safe nation of Greece they don't stay but head north in search of "a better way of life."

Szijjarto said Friday there's "a piece of hypocrisy" in criticism of his country's fencing off its southern borders to keep migrants out, as it is forced to abide by European regulations on border controls.

He spoke after talks in Athens with Greek foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. Hungary has criticized Greece for letting in hundreds of thousands of people across the sea from Turkey.


3:25 p.m.

France's government says it has shifted nearly 700 migrants this week from the flashpoint slum outside the northern port city of Calais to shelters elsewhere in the country.

About 6,000 migrants are camped out in slum-like conditions in Calais, hoping to take a chance at crossing the Channel Tunnel for a better life in Britain. France's government is eager to show that it has a handle on the situation as winter approaches.

According to the Interior Ministry, 402 migrants were transferred Friday and 293 were moved Tuesday. The statement said a medical team was heading to Calais, and the government was finishing a plan for a cleanup, latrines, and drinking water.

Tensions have risen between Britain and France, which are linked via Calais with both ferry and train service.


2:20 p.m.

Hundreds of migrants, many holding children in their arms, have pushed through metal barriers and a police cordon to force their way into Austria from Slovenia.

Several people were seen collapsing amid the melee Friday near the Slovenian refugee camp in Sentilj on the border with Austria.

The backlog of some 4,000 of people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been formed at the border as Austrian authorities struggled to process thousands arriving daily from Slovenia.

Hundreds of migrants on Thursday also pushed their way into Austria after waiting for hours to cross.

Nearly 105,000 people have entered Slovenia in two weeks.


2:10 p.m.

Norway says it expects up to 33,000 people will seek refuge in the country next year.

Officials say more than 13,000 asylum seekers have so far traveled to the Scandinavian country, and estimate their numbers could reach up to 25,000 this year.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen said Friday Norway "must have a strict but just asylum policy," adding it was "necessary to review rules and procedures that can reduce costs per asylum-seeker and the flow of new applicants."

The bulk of the refugees came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.


2:05 p.m.

Turkey's state-run agency says four children have drowned and two others are missing after two boats carrying migrants from Turkey to the Greeks islands capsized in the Aegean Sea.

The Anadolu Agency says the first boat capsized off the Turkish Aegean coast of Canakkale early on Friday on its way to the island of Lesbos. The coast guards rescued 19 migrants but four children aged between 1 and 4 drowned.

The second boat sank off the coast of Didim, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Canakkale, on route to the island of Samos. The agency said coast guards and fishermen rescued 29 people but two babies were missing.


1:55 p.m.

Thousands of migrants have piled up on the Slovenian side of the border with Austria waiting in cold weather to cross.

The backlog of some 4,000 people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa was formed in the refugee camp in Sentilj as Austrian authorities struggled to process and register as many as they arrive from the Slovenian side.

Hundreds of asylum seekers on Thursday pushed their way over metal barriers at the Sentilj camp after waiting for hours to cross.

Both Slovenia and Austria have discussed possibility of building fences on their borders to control the massive influx of migrants and refugees.

Nearly 105,000 people have entered Slovenia in less than two weeks since Hungary sealed its border with Croatia.


1 p.m.

Spain's marine rescue service says nearly 40 people who are dead or missing fell into the sea when the bottom of their Zodiac-type inflatable boat collapsed.

Photographs on the service's Web site showed the survivors straddling the sides of the boat that remained afloat.

The group had been trying to reach Spain from Morocco. The 15 survivors were found in an area of the Mediterranean Sea northeast of the Moroccan coastal city of Alhucemas and taken to the southern Spanish port of Malaga.

Four bodies were found and 35 people are still missing.

African migrants seeking a better life in Europe often try to reach Spain by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco.

Tens of thousands of migrants also try to make it to Italy and Greece from north Africa and the Middle East each year


11:30 a.m.

Spanish sea rescue teams have found the bodies of four migrants and are searching for 35 people missing from a boat that ran into trouble while trying to reach Spain from Morocco.

The Marine Rescue service said on its official Twitter account that 15 migrants were found alive on the boat Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea south from the Spanish port of Malaga.

The service said the search for the missing migrants resumed Friday.

African migrants seeking a better life in Europe often try to reach Spain by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco.

Tens of thousands of migrants also try to make it to Italy and Greece from north Africa and the Middle East each year.


11:10 a.m.

Germany's vice chancellor is blasting what he describes as irresponsible bickering in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc over the migrant crisis.

Bavaria's Christian Social Union, part of Merkel's Union bloc but often an awkward ally, has criticized Merkel's approach for weeks. Leader Horst Seehofer has demanded moves by Sunday to limit the migrant influx. Merkel has argued there's no way to instantly stop the influx.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, a center-left Social Democrat, said the infighting "would appear bizarre in normal times." He told the Spiegel Online news portal in comments published Friday: "In view of the great challenge for our country from the high immigration of refugees, the argument ... is now threatening the government's ability to act."

Merkel, Seehofer and Gabriel are to meet Sunday.


10:50 a.m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has expressed "endless grief" at the new migrant tragedies in the Aegean Sea, saying they put Europe to shame.

Tsipras accused the European Union of inability to effectively address the humanitarian crisis, and said Western countries that took part in military interventions in the Middle East bear responsibility for the mass migrant flows.

Speaking in parliament Friday, Tsipras said that the Aegean is washing up "not just dead children, but the very civilization of Europe."


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