The Latest: Overcrowding in refugee housing now an issue

September 29, 2015

PARIS (AP) — The latest developments as European governments struggle to cope with tens of thousands of people trekking across Europe to find safety. All times local:


3:55 p.m.

Authorities in some parts of Germany have waived housing standards to cope with an unprecedented influx of migrants this year.

An Associated Press survey has found that at least three of Germany’s 16 states have lowered their requirements for refugee shelters, including for the minimum amount of space given to each refugee. Six states had no minimum requirements or said it was up to inspectors to approve conditions on a case-by-case basis. Two didn’t respond.

Rights groups warned Tuesday that overcrowding is causing stress in refugee shelters, citing a mass brawl between up to 400 residents at one refugee tent city last weekend.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has dismissed their concerns, saying “we can’t offer any luxury and we don’t want to offer any luxury.”


3:30 p.m.

Croatia’s prime minister has criticized his Hungarian counterpart, saying that Budapest’s wish to build a fence between the two European Union countries will not stop tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from crossing their territories to head to wealthier EU nations like Germany.

Croatia’s Zoran Milanovic chided the move by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday, calling his fence plan a threat to their common values.

Milanovic says there’s “no river border between Croatia and Hungary and it’s virtually impossible to hold this bitter river of people at bay.”

Milanovic spoke during a visit to the migrant camp in the village of Opatovac on Serbia’s border with Croatia.


3:10 p.m.

A Czech opposition group has called for nationwide referendums on whether the nation should quit the European Union and reject last week’s EU decision to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers among its nations.

The refugee decision was approved by EU ministers this week despite opposition from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Slovakia is planning to challenge the move but the Czech government said it would respect it.

The parliamentary Dawn group says the moves are to protest the EU refugee plan. It says the Czech Republic is a sovereign state that can take care of itself.

Dawn chairman Miroslav Lidinsky said Tuesday: “We want to join Britain to send a message to the European Union that it needs to reform.”

Another parliamentary opposition group, the Freedom and Direct Democracy movement, said Tuesday it wants the government to face a parliamentary no-confidence vote over the same issue.


2:50 p.m.

Hungarian lawmakers have expanded the number of courts dealing with migrant cases.

A bill approved Tuesday in parliament says courts in the southern cities of Pecs and Zalaegerszeg will now be able to handle trials for those caught entering the country illegally or appeals by migrants whose requests for asylum have been rejected.

Earlier this month, Hungary made it a crime to cut through or climb over its newly erected border fence.

At present, only courts in Szeged near the Serbian border, where Hungary has built a 4-meter (13-foot) fence with razor-wire, are dealing with such migrant cases. Hungary is building similar fence on the Croatian border.

Police say over 280,000 migrants have entered Hungary so far this year, nearly all on their way to richer countries like Germany.


2:40 p.m.

French President François Hollande says Europe was “too slow” to realize the gravity of violence in Syria and Iraq and should now work to integrate the hundreds of thousands of their refugees reaching European shores.

Hollande told a trade union meeting Tuesday in Paris that Europeans wrongly “believed the tragedies occurring (in the Mideast) would have no consequences for Europe.”

France was slow to offer help to waves of migrants this year, but is now trying to speed up asylum efforts. Hollande urged Europeans to “integrate these refugees socially and professionally, to train the children, to provide language classes to the parents ... and allow them to find a job.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking at the same event, said “the refugees deserve our solidarity.”


2:30 p.m.

Danish police say a 25-year-old man who was to be deported has been arrested and is suspected of attempted murder for stabbing a police officer in the neck, arm and shoulder in Denmark’s largest asylum center.

Spokesman Henrik Suhr says the suspect was “a stateless Palestinian,” and the victim, a 56-year-old male officer, was no longer in a life-threatening condition.

The suspect, who was not named in line with Danish privacy rules, stabbed the policeman after he had entered a room Tuesday before dawn to find out why the lights had been turned on. Suhr added they were investigating what the suspect was doing inside the room at Center Sandholm.

Newly arrived refugees are registered at the center north of Copenhagen, which also houses those who have had their applications rejected or are waiting to be deported.


2:20 p.m.

Bavaria’s governor says 169,400 migrants have arrived in the southeastern German state, by far the main point of entry to the country, since the beginning of September.

Gov. Horst Seehofer gave the figure Tuesday and said 10,000 people arrived on Monday alone, the dpa news agency reported. Seehofer, a conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been critical of her decision several weeks ago to allow in refugees who had piled up in Hungary. He said “these are dimensions that in the past we didn’t have in a whole year.”

Most migrants arrive in Germany via Austria, and all of Germany’s border with that country is in Bavaria. Many are then taken elsewhere in Germany. Germany introduced border checks on Sept. 13 to ease the registration process while so many newcomers were flooding in.


12:40 p.m.

Asylum-seekers are slogging through rain and mud-caked roads in Croatia, as worsening fall weather plagues their journeys to seek sanctuary in richer European countries.

Some 85,000 migrants have entered Croatia since Sept. 15, when Hungary closed its border with Serbia. That action diverted people to this economically struggling Balkan nation of 4.2 million, swelling roads near its border with thousands fleeing conflict and poverty from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Tuesday’s constant rain inflicted misery all around. Aid workers handed out dry clothes and described their horror at seeing infants soaked to the skin through layer after layer of wet clothes.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic plans to visit the migrant transit camp at Opatovac, near the Serb border, later Tuesday.


11:55 a.m.

The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million.

As of Tuesday, the group says 522,124 people have traveled by sea to reach the continent this year. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece, more than 175,000 of them from war-torn Syria — the largest single refugee source as a country. Another 6,710 Syrians entered through Italy.

IOM estimated that 2,892 people have died trying the crossing — the vast majority of those deaths coming among people seeking to reach Italy via North Africa.

The influx has strained the 28-nation European Union and prompted a rash of border closures. This year’s influx has long since passed the previous record, some 219,000 people last year.


11:35 p.m.

Poland’s prime minister says her government will take steps to bring in tens of thousands of ethnic Poles now living in Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The long-neglected issue was raised recently amid heated debates over 7,000 refugees from the Middle East that Poland is to host. Critics of the European Union refugee program say Poland’s first obligation should be toward ethnic Poles expelled from their homes under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and to their descendants.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Tuesday the Cabinet will earmark 30 million zlotys ($8 million) for the “repatriation” of ethnic Poles.

Poland has brought in some families from Kazakhstan and conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, but the needs are much greater.


10:05 a.m.

French authorities say a 20-year-old Iraqi migrant who apparently was trying to sneak across the English Channel to Britain has been found crushed to death in a truck.

The administration for the Pas de Calais region said the man’s body was found Tuesday morning by a Hungarian truck driver when he was inspecting his cargo in the Calais port.

Officials say the victim was traveling with two other family members who were unhurt. The young Iraqi was the 12th person to die trying to cross the Channel since June, the administration said.

Thousands of migrants from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere are living in filthy camps around Calais.


10:00 a.m.

Danish police say one of its officers was stabbed several times in the stomach inside Denmark’s largest asylum center.

Spokesman Henrik Suhr says the male officer, whom he didn’t identify, was no longer in a life-threatening condition.

Police have cordoned off the area around the center north of Copenhagen where newly arrived refugees are registered. It also houses those who have had their application rejected and are waiting to be deported.

Suhr added no arrests have been made, adding police were searching for suspects. The motive for the Tuesday morning stabbing at Center Sandholm was not known.

Update hourly