Stranded migrants chant 'Open the borders!'
(Associated Press) - December 19, 2015 - 3:09pm

ANKARA — The latest on the continuing flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe. All times local:

9:40 p.m.

Mareman Azad of Afghanistan was among 1,000 protesters in Athens on International Migrants Day.

The demonstrators were protesting plans by Greece's left-wing government to start detaining migrants who are due to be deported. They filed past an open air Christmas concert Friday at Athens' main Syntagma Square as a choir sang "Silent Night."

Azad, who traveled to Greece from Turkey after leaving her home in Kabul, says she has been learning Greek while she waits for an opportunity to try and travel north.

She tells an AP journalist that "I've been here for two months. I want to go to northern Europe, to France."

Some 800,000 migrants and refugees have reached Greece from Turkey so far this year. Thousands are now stranded there by Macedonia's decision to limit which asylum-seekers it allows across the border.


9:10 p.m.

More than 1,000 stranded migrants and demonstrators from Greek left-wing and anarchist groups have marched to the Greek parliament and a European Union office in Athens, protesting Greek plans to resume the detention of migrants who are denied asylum in EU countries.

The migrants, mostly from North African countries, chanted "Open the borders!" during the march Friday that ended peacefully. The rally was held to celebrate International Migrants Day.

Reversing an earlier policy, Greece's left-wing government on Monday announced it would soon start detaining migrants who are due to be deported.

Some 800,000 migrants and refugees have reached Greece from Turkey so far this year.


5:25 p.m.

American actress and activist Susan Sarandon is visiting the Greek island of Lesbos, Europe's busiest transit point for refugees and migrants reaching the European Union.

Sarandon traveled Friday to the island's northern shore and spoke to volunteer rescuers and migrants who traveled by dinghy from the nearby coast of Turkey.

Sarandon said she would spend the Christmas holidays on Lesbos to spend time with refugees, "getting their stories and hearing what they have to say so I can better explain to people back home what the situation is and hopefully learn."

Earlier this month, US actor Mandy Patinkin, who stars in the popular television series "Homeland," also visited Lesbos.


4:45 p.m.

The UN secretary-general is calling on the world to urgently tackle the global migration crisis by creating a "new global compact on human mobility."

Ban Ki-moon in a statement for International Migrants Day on Friday says 2015 has been marked by worrying developments in which "millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric."

Ban notes that more than 5,000 people have died this year while trying to flee to safer places, and that "tens of thousands" have been exploited by human traffickers.

He again calls for countries to "expand safe channels for regular migration," including for family reunification, and better employment and education opportunities.


1:10 p.m.

The International Organization for Migration says refugee and migrant arrivals by sea and land into Europe this year are expected to top the 1 million mark next week.

The Geneva-based agency says 990,761 people have arrived from Africa or the Middle East, with more than 800,000 people crossing from Turkey to Greece alone. More than half of those — or some 455,000 — are Syrians.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said roughly 4,300 people arrived from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands on Wednesday. The agency now estimates the one-million mark will be reached by Tuesday. That would be over four times the total of about 240,000 crossings by land and sea into Europe last year.

The agency said daily arrivals continue in the thousands despite "ever colder temperatures and dangerous sea conditions."


12:15 p.m.

Sweden has approved checks of travel documents for people entering the Scandinavian country in a move to try to stem the influx of refugees.

As of Jan. 4, bus companies, ferry and train operators will be held responsible for checking identity papers of all travelers during a limited time period of up to six months. It was not immediately clear whether people would be turned away.

Sweden's Parliament passed the law Thursday, presented by the Social Democratic-led coalition with the backing of the opposition anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

By late November, Sweden had received nearly 150,000 refugees, nearly twice as many as last year.

Last month, Sweden reversed its lenient asylum policies including canceling permanent residence permits for some groups and limiting the rights of family reunification.


11:50 a.m.

Denmark's integration minister says police should be able to seize valuables from asylum-seekers to pay for their lodging, language classes, health care and job training courses.

Inger Stoejberg with the center-right Liberal government says a law proposal aims at bringing refugees in line with unemployed Danes, who can only get social benefits if they sell any assets above 10,000 kroner ($1,453).

Stoejberg said Friday that wedding rings, watches or items "with a sentimental value," should not be taken.

The proposal, which has the support of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party — Denmark's second largest group — is expected to pass next month.

So far, more than 9,000 people have sought shelter in 2015 in Denmark, which recently cut social benefits for refugees by up to 50 percent.


10:35 a.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says four Iraqi migrants — two of them children — have drowned after a boat taking them to Greece sank off the Turkish coast.

Anadolu Agency says the boat was taking eight Iraqi migrants to the Greek island of Kos. It sank on Friday shortly after leaving the Turkish Aegean resort of Bodrum.

Turkish coast guards rescued the four other migrants.

Anadolu said authorities detained a Turkish man suspected of organizing the journey.

Some 770,000 refugees and other migrants from the Middle East and Africa crossed to the Aegean islands in flimsy boats provided by smuggling rings this year. Hundreds have died during the crossings.

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