The Latest: German official notes 69 birthday deportations
ROME (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):
Germany’s top security official has made light of the fact that his country deported 69 asylum-seekers to Afghanistan — on his 69th birthday.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer remarked on the number Tuesday, but said of the deportation flight: “it wasn’t booked by me.”
The rejected asylum-seekers on the plane were the largest number Germany has returned to Afghanistan on one flight.
The country has vowed to step up deportations as part of a crackdown against people entering or remaining in the country illegally.
Seehofer’s comment came as he presented a new plan that would see Germany’s 16 states get federal assistance for deportations.
Deutsche Welle video: https://twitter.com/dw_politics/status/1016704029047607296
Italy’s hard-line, anti-migrant interior minister has toured a crime-laden migrant shantytown in the southern Calabria region and vowed to enforce only “limited, controlled and qualified” immigration.
Matteo Salvini challenged the “do-gooders” who want to open Italy’s ports to migrants to visit the San Ferdinando slum in Reggio Calabria, where he heard of shameless farmers exploiting migrant workers and women being forced into prostitution to get by. Last month, a migrant was killed in San Ferdinando by his former boss.
Salvini said: “Civility and legality must return as the order of the day.”
Salvini has launched a crackdown on migration, closing Italy’s ports to aid groups that rescue migrants and vowing to renegotiate the terms of European missions in the Mediterranean to prevent migrants from disembarking in Italy.
Italy’s foreign minister says Italy will call for a “rebalancing” of NATO’s resources from Europe’s eastern borders to its southern frontiers to help combat illegal migration.
Enzo Moavero Milanesi outlined the foreign policy agenda of Italy’s populist, anti-migrant League-5-Star Movement on Tuesday before parliament, ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Brussels.
Moavero Milanesi said there is evidence that foreign fighters have infiltrated migrant boats leaving Libya, thereby posing a security threat to Europe that justifies NATO’s involvement.
Moavero Milanesi said: “We will strongly ask the NATO summit for a rebalancing of the Atlantic alliance’s commitment toward the Mediterranean. We should have an equal commitment toward the east and south.”
Italy’s government has launched a crackdown on migration and is seeking to renegotiate the mandates of EU missions in the Mediterranean to prevent rescued migrants from disembarking in Italy.
Austria is offering to provide soldiers to the Balkans or North Africa to help control the flow of migrants into Europe.
Defense Minister Mario Kunasek and Interior Minister Herbert Kickl told reporters Tuesday that the troops could also be used along the European Union’s external borders through bilateral agreements for “assistance missions” or in support of Frontex, the European border security agency.
Several hundred soldiers currently assist Austrian police with controls at the borders to Slovenia, Hungary and Italy.
Kickl says they have been helping since 2016 because police forces were overstretched due to a lack of control of the EU’s external borders.
He says: “We want to do this differently.”
Germany’s top security official has presented his new plan on controlling and limiting migration to Germany.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Tuesday the main goals of the “migration master plan” include the quick deportation of people living in Germany whose asylum applications have been rejected, who already registered for asylum in another European country or who have a criminal record.
Seehofer, who has long pushed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a harder line against migrants, says the new plan also envisions placing all asylum seekers in centers to have their applications processed there.
The plans also foresees that asylum applicants who previously registered in another EU country will be taken directly back to where they first entered the EU — primarily Greece and Italy.
Greek police say eight people were slightly hurt and 19 were arrested following a violent brawl at a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.
A police official said Tuesday three tents were also set ablaze during the fracas at the Moria refugee camp.
Police stepped in to quell the feud between rival groups that began late Monday and lasted for several hours.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak publicly, said it’s unclear what exactly triggered the fighting.
Outbreaks of violence at the overcrowded refugee camp, often triggered by trivial disputes, are increasingly common.
Lesbos is one of five Greek islands near the coast of Turkey being used by the European Union to form a barrier to migration after more than a million people came through here in 2015-16, heading to western Europe.
Germany’s Interior Ministry says the country saw a 16.4-percent decline in asylum applications in the first half of 2018 over the same period last year.
The ministry said Tuesday that there were 93,316 formal applications from January through June, 18,300 fewer than in the first half of 2017. The largest group seeking asylum was from Syria, with 22,520 applications, followed by Iraq with 9,015 applications and Afghanistan with 6,222.
In the first six months, German authorities decided on 125,190 applications, down nearly 70 percent from the same period of 2017, an indication that the backlog of cases is starting to be cleared.
Some 40,000 people were granted asylum or related protection, 45,000 were rejected and 40,000 cases were otherwise resolved, such as being withdrawn or sent to another European country for review.
Italy’s transport minister says an investigation is underway into the latest rescue of migrants off Libya, in which an Italian ship tending to an oil rig picked up some 60 people.
Minister Danilo Toninelli vowed to “punish the troublemakers” and praised the Italian coast guard for taking on the migrants from the tug Vos Thalassa. Toninelli tweeted Tuesday that the migrants were “putting at risk the lives of the crew” of the Thalassa.
News agency ANSA said the Thalassa intervened in the rescue in Libya’s search and rescue zone late Monday, even though the Libyan coast guard had been alerted to the distress call. Under Italy’s new hard-line, anti-migrant interior minister Matteo Salvini, Italy is seeking to have Libya’s coast guard rescue migrants and take them back.