The Latest: UN refugee agency probes Malta-Libya incident
BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The Latest on developments involving migrants to Europe (all times local):
An official with the U.N. refugee agency says it is investigating why Malta last week apparently asked the Libyan coast guard to intercept a migrant boat in a zone of the Mediterranean under Maltese responsibility.
Vincent Cochetel, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ special envoy for the central Mediterranean, told reporters in Rome Tuesday that “there’s some evidence that Malta had requested assistance to the Libyan coast guard to intervene” in its own search and rescue region on Oct. 18.
He said that “we are looking into the reasons of Malta’s request,” and that Malta may have asked Libya to intervene for technical reasons. He added: “The problem is that the migrants were disembarked in Libya. That’s certainly a violation of maritime laws ... It’s clear that Libya isn’t a safe port.”
Greece’s government has promised to toughen the asylum application procedure for migrants and speed up deportations as authorities struggle to cope with a surge in new arrivals.
The draft legislation submitted to parliament and published Tuesday also calls for tougher criteria in assessing asylum applications and an expanded use of detention.
A surge in arrivals of migrants and refugees over the summer has put severe strain on Greek islands near the Turkish coast where more than 25,000 asylum seekers and migrants remain, mostly in overcrowded camps.
Bosnian police have pulled dozens of migrants off a train to prevent them from reaching a northwestern part of the country where an overcrowded tent camp remains without water supplies for a second day in a row.
Hundreds of migrants staying at the Vucjak camp outside the town of Bihac could be seen on Tuesday carrying plastic bottles filled with water they got from residents in the vicinity.
Bihac authorities on Monday cut the camp’s water supplies to pressure the Bosnian government to help relocate thousands of migrants who are stuck in the area near the border with European Union member Croatia while trying to reach Western Europe.
To stop a further influx, police overnight disembarked migrants traveling on a Bihac-bound train and bused them away from the town.