The Latest: Aid ship rescues 36 migrants at Malta’s request
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The latest on migration to Europe (all times local):
A rescue ship run by two nonprofit groups has pulled 36 people from an overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea based on a request from Maltese authorities.
The migrants were taken aboard the Ocean Viking in international waters some 240 kilometers (149 miles) from Malta and 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Women and children were among the three dozen people rescued Thursday evening. Many reported being Algerian and Libyan citizens.
The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking picked up another 182 migrants from unseaworthy boats earlier this week north of Libya. It now carries 218 passengers who were rescued at sea.
A journalist for The Associated Press witnessed Thursday’s operation from aboard the ship operated by Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee.
Cypriot police say a dozen Syrians have been rescued off a small boat around 65 nautical miles southeast of the coastal town of Larnaca after signaling for help.
A passing merchant vessel picked up the 11 men and one woman following a request by Cypriot authorities to assist in the rescue.
The Syrians were transferred to a marine police patrol boat and taken to Larnaca.
Earlier Thursday, Cyprus’ interior minister said the European Union’s asylum agency would set up a permanent office on the island to help with the burgeoning number of asylum claims.
Greek authorities have evacuated two buildings in a depressed area of central Athens and will rehouse more than 250 migrants who lived there for years with the support of left-wing activists.
A police statement said that two handguns and an unspecified number of knives were found in the buildings, and one migrant was arrested for illegal weapons possession.
The raids early Thursday were part of a drive by Greece’s new center-right government to crack down on a series of illegal squat buildings, petty crime and rampant drug-dealing in central Athens.
Police said 179 migrants were removed from one building, and 90 from the other, a former school. All will be relocated to organized housing for migrants.
The two buildings had been illegally occupied since 2016, police said.
Slovenian police have arrested four suspected people smugglers and found 57 migrants being illegally transported through the country.
Police in Novo Mesto said Thursday that the migrants were found at three different locations in southern Slovenia, near the border with Croatia.
They said 35 migrants were found Wednesday in the back of a truck with Italian plates traveling along a main highway near the border crossing with Croatia. Seven more were found further south along the border and 15 others near the town of Kocevje.
Migrants come to Slovenia from neighboring Croatia as they seek to move toward Western Europe. Thousands of other migrants remain stuck in other Balkan countries, like Serbia and Bosnia.
Authorities in Bosnia say a migrant was stabbed to death during a fight in a migrant camp. The alleged perpetrator, also a migrant, was wounded and being treated in hospital.
The local prosecutor’s office said the two migrants fought in a tent early Thursday at a migrant camp near the town of Bihac, in northwestern Bosnia.
Hundreds of migrants are staying at the Vucjak camp near the border with European Union member Croatia. International aid groups have criticized the camp as an unfit location because of nearby minefields.
Frustration among the thousands of migrants stuck in Bosnia is immense as they wait for months to cross into Croatia and move on toward Western Europe. Croatian police often turned back migrants several times before they succeed.
Cyprus’ interior minister says the European Union’s asylum agency is setting up a permanent office on the east Mediterranean island nation to help authorities expedite the burgeoning number of asylum claims.
Constantinos Petrides says Cyprus is the first country to sign a deal with EASO deploying experts to assist processing asylum claims and help curb abuses of the system.
He says the number of EASO experts in Cyprus will soon double to 40 and reach 80 by the end of 2020 to help the country cope with the “disproportionate pressure” it faces.
Petrides met Thursday with EASO chief executive Nina Gregori.
Cyprus says it receives the largest number of asylum claims per capita in the EU, with 8,500 new claims so far this year and 12,500 more still pending.