The Latest: US to give $419 million in aid to Syria refugees
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The Latest: US to give $419 million in aid to Syria refugees
Sep. 21, 2015
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local:
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the United States will direct nearly $419 million in humanitarian aid toward helping Syrian refugees.
Earnest says the money will help pay for emergency health care, safe drinking water, food and shelter.
Earnest says the U.S. has now committed to spend $4.5 billion to help address the dire conditions inside Syria and in refugee camps scattered across the region.
The money will come through the U.S. Agency for International Development and Congress will not have to approve the additional spending.
After the weekend crush of migrants and refugees threatened to overwhelm Austrian police, soldiers and humanitarian workers at the Nickelsdorf border crossing from Hungary, the scene late Monday is relatively calm.
Fewer than 2,000 people are at the crossing. Nearly 24,000 crossed over the weekend, most at Nickelsdorf.
Police spokesman Helmut Marban says that the focus is now on moving migrants who arrived earlier to new shelters to make room for any new arrivals overnight.
Temperatures are forecast to drop to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit). Marban says that makes a night in the open "nearly impossible."
Marban says about 5,000 people arrived since early Monday, but many have been bused to shelters.
Still waiting was Beshir Al Bashi. The 18-year old from Idlib, Syria, says he wants to study medicine in Germany.
As hundreds of migrants surge into Finland across its northwestern border from Sweden, the small Nordic country says it will tighten border controls and open reception centers to register all asylum-seekers.
The Interior Ministry says police will begin checking people crossing the border into the town of Tornio from Sweden. If they are asylum-seekers, they will be sent to a registration center that is opening Tuesday.
The Finnish Immigration Service said Monday that last week number of asylum-seekers arriving in Finland hit 2,800, rising more than 60 percent from the previous week.
The government said it's sending more resources to northern Finland, including soldiers to guard reception centers, an asylum investigation police team and personnel for Border Guard patrols.
They talked and talked and talked.
Still, no agreement was reached Monday between Eastern European nations firmly opposed to the European Union's plan for compulsory quotas to distribute refugees and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Interior ministers from the EU's 28 members will try to resolve the dispute on the emergency relocation of 120,000 asylum-seekers at a meeting Tuesday in Brussels. The next day, their leaders will meet again on the migrant crisis that is overwhelming Europe.
After talking in Prague with the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Asselborn said: "We still have 20 hours ... to come to a conclusion. We know we have to find a European solution."
A German hospital says a Syrian teenager has died of liver failure after eating a poisonous mushroom that resembles edible fungi in his homeland.
University Hospital Muenster spokeswoman Marion Zahr said Monday that the 16-year-old boy died overnight. Five patients were admitted last week with mushroom poisoning and one of the others is in critical condition.
Last week, a hospital in Hannover said it had seen around 35 cases in a few days of Syrian refugees poisoned by eating the death cap mushroom, one of the most poisonous in Germany.
The Muenster hospital said news about the cases and a poster warning about the fungi appear to have prevented new cases.
Amid the crowd of migrants at the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia, here is a fluffy little reminder of the life the asylum-seekers left behind.
Rose, a blue-eyed husky pup, whimpers softly inside her red-and-black carrier box as the throngs ebb and flow around her.
Saffa Hussein and his friends couldn't abandon Rose when they left Syria for Europe. While the young men limited themselves to one small backpack each, they carried Rose through Syria and Turkey, across the Mediterranean to the Greek island of Lesbos, then headed north through the Balkans.
"This is my friend's dog," Hussein says, adding she has "joined us on the trip to Europe."
Rose has traveled 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) so far. She and her companions want to go another 800 kilometers to seek a fresh start in Germany.
Hungarian lawmakers have approved legislation allowing the government to send troops to help police manage the migration crisis.
The bill approved Monday lets soldiers carry out many of the same tasks as police, such as checking IDs, detaining suspects and controlling the flow of traffic at the borders.
While the soldiers will carry weapons, Hungarian officials vowed that the use of force would be only a last resort. Defense Minister Istvan Simicsko said earlier that "you truly can't answer a slap with a rocket."
Hundreds of migrants are waiting in Turkey's northwestern province of Edirne, blocked by authorities from moving into European Union members Greece and Bulgaria.
Some 150 migrants are waiting in a park in the city of Edirne. Nearly 1,000 others are camped out 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the border with Greece.
Wesam Mohammed Al Abu, a 30-year-old Syrian migrant from Aleppo, said the migrants are waiting for the results of an EU summit — due to take place Wednesday in Brussels— which he hoped would allow him to cross over.
He says "we hope they will open the border."
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is urging the bloc to stop squabbling over proposals to share 120,000 refugees and find agreement at Tuesday's meeting of justice and interior ministers.
Talking to reporters in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Mogherini said Monday that "our internal unity strengthens our external action or weakens it."
On Tuesday, EU ministers in Brussels are expected decide on a European Commission proposal for the emergency relocation of 120,000 asylum-seekers now in Greece, Italy or Hungary. That number is in addition to the relocation of 40,000 people from Italy and Greece, a move adopted last week.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pledging to do everything to resolve the redistribution of refugees by consensus, rather than simply outvoting European Union partners.
EU interior ministers meet Tuesday to renew a discussion of quotas to spread asylum-seekers around the 28-nation bloc, and EU leaders will meet in a summit Wednesday. Germany backs mandatory refugee quotas for each nation but Eastern European nations strongly oppose the plan.
Merkel said Monday that "there cannot and will not be a solution overnight" to the crisis and that more meetings will be needed.
She said: "It's worth every effort to do everything to be able to decide by consensus among the 28 member states, rather than by qualified majority, on important questions such as the distribution of refugees."
Serbia's foreign minister has denounced the European Union for failing to act on the continent's refugee crisis and for allowing EU nations to put up border fences that he calls a new "Iron Curtain."
Minister Ivica Dacic said "only during wars have borders been closed like this, and the EU acts like this is happening on a different planet."
He spoke Monday in Warsaw at the start of two-week conference of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Dacic also said it wasn't right that Serbia will not be included in an EU summit Wednesday to tackle the migrant crisis. Serbia is not a member of the 28-member EU but has seen more than 150,000 migrants pass through in the past few months.
Dacic recalled the "joy" in Europe when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and said countries from the former Yugoslavia "will not stand for being put behind another Iron Curtain."
Romania has erected some 120 tents near its border with Serbia in what it calls a "preventive measure" — even though migrants so far have bypassed Romania.
Some 60 tents have been put up Sunday near the village of Lunga and translators and medical staff will be sent to the camp. Another camp with 60 tents was being set up at Moravita.
Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea said the camps were "to test our capacity to react." Interior ministry personnel are also being sent to Baba Veche, a town near the borders of Hungary and Serbia.
Both Romania and Hungary are part of the 28-nation European Union, but Romania is not part of Europe's passport-free travel zone, so those seeking refuge in Europe avoid it.
Greek police say 8,500 asylum-seekers have crossed the country's northern border into Macedonia in the last 24 hours.
More than 260,000 people fleeing war and poverty have arrived in Greece so far this year, with the vast majority heading north through Macedonia to the more prosperous northern European Union countries.
Hundreds arrive on eastern Greek islands each day, gradually making their way to the mainland, then north to the Idomeni border area and into Macedonia. Buses were arriving Monday at the border and people were crossing with no reported problems.
Hungary's prime minister says millions of migrants are "laying siege" to the borders of his country and of Europe, putting the continent in danger.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Monday in Parliament that "the migrants are not just banging on our door, they are breaking it down." He insisted the razor-wire fences Hungary is building on its borders with Serbia, Croatia and Romania are needed to stop the migrants and defend Hungary and Europe.
Orban, speaking ahead of a vote to send soldiers to the border, complained that "Europe ... sent out invitations to the migrants." He reiterated his view that most were coming for economic, not safety, reasons.
The Czech Republic is questioning the legality of proposed compulsory quotas for distributing refugees in European Union.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says it might be illegal under EU law to keep the refugees involuntarily in one particular country and it's not clear if national parliaments are entitled to block the quotas.
The EU is squabbling over proposals for EU nations to share 120,000 refugees.
Ahead of Wednesday's summit of EU leaders, the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which have all opposed the migrant quotas, met Monday in Prague with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz says he fears Wednesday's EU summit to resolve disagreements over migrants will instead end in discord.
Schulz met Monday with French President Francois Hollande in Paris to prepare for the discussions and try to "avoid widening differences and gaps that are existing already" between the EU countries.
He says the European council must raise money for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey because "there's no money anymore to help people" in refugee camps in those nations.
International donors promised 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to help Syrian refugees but have paid only only 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion).
The man in charge of Croatia's police forces has taken the unusual step of trying to personally reassure asylum seekers.
Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic boarded a bus full of migrants Monday when he was visiting a newly established reception center in Opatovac in eastern Croatia. As the television cameras followed, Ostojic told the group they would be given refreshments "and then you will be transported to Europe."
Croatia has been under extreme pressure since thousands of asylum seekers got stuck there after Hungary shut its border last week. Those fleeing violence in their homelands have faced riot police in Hungary, Macedonia, Slovenia and Turkey.
Greece's coast guard says a wooden boat carrying about 70 migrants has run aground on the eastern coast of the Greek island of Rhodes and a coast guard vessel is helping the passengers reach the shore.
There were no reports of injuries in Monday's incident.
The coast guard also said Monday it had rescued 994 people in 42 search-and rescue-operations from Friday morning to Monday morning, excluding the Rhodes incident. That doesn't include the hundreds who make it to the islands themselves on flimsy dinghies.
Germany's interior minister is proposing a system under which the European Union would take in a set number of refugees directly from crisis-hit areas — thus avoiding smugglers — and then send any further asylum seekers elsewhere.
Germany is a prime destination for migrants flooding into Europe. It expects at least 800,000 to arrive this year — and possibility up to 1 million — and is struggling to deal with the influx.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Monday his "personal initiative" would see "generous," though unspecified, EU quotas to bring in refugees from crisis-hit regions and spread them around the continent. He said after that, others arriving in Europe would be taken to "safe regions" outside the continent.
Austrian police say people keep streaming in by the thousands across the border from Hungary.
Police spokesman Helmut Marban says Monday that nearly 24,000 people fleeing their homelands had crossed in over the weekend.
He says 3,200 more have already arrived Monday at the Nickelsdorf crossing, the main point of entry into Austria from Hungary.
Poland's former president, Lech Walesa, says refugees must be ready to respect the rules and religion in predominantly Catholic Poland if they are to be accepted.
Solidarity founder Walesa said Monday that a set of rules for admission is needed because with time the refugees will "demand space for themselves and we will have religious, social and all other problems."
While preserving their own religion they should "not cause problems for another religion," Walesa told The Associated Press. He says "if someone agrees to the rules, he is admitted, if not, that's his choice.
The European Union wants Poland to accept some 12,000 refugees.
The Hungarian government is warning migrants not to enter the country illegally saying it is a crime punishable by imprisonment.
In a full-page advertisement in Lebanon's leading An-Nahar daily Monday, the government says "the strongest possible action is taken" against people who attempt to enter Hungary illegally.
Hungary, which closed its border with Serbia on Sept. 15, erected another steel barrier at the Beremend border crossing from Croatia to try to slow the flow of migrants. But they kept coming.
People fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are rushing from one European border to the next as they desperately try to find a way north.
Thousands more continue to brave the Mediterranean in rickety boats as they try to reach more welcoming countries like Germany and Sweden.
Authorities in Croatia have set up a migrant reception center in the eastern Croatian village of Opatovac, hoping to inject order into the unrelenting chaos that has gripped the country overwhelmed by thousands seeking sanctuary in Europe.
Croatian authorities said Monday that some 27,000 people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia had entered the country since Hungary shut its border with Serbia on Sept. 15. That closure stymied many migrants, who found their way blocked as governments bickered over who should take responsibility for them.
The new center is expected to register the asylum seekers and then arrange for transport onward.
But asylum seekers were worried, even though they've been promised they will eventually be sent to Hungary or Slovenia.
"Now we're waiting for their decision, we don't know what will happen, " said Salakh Arbash, 18, from Syria.