The Latest: North Macedonia police detain 81 migrants

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French police officers watch migrants packing their belongings in a camp of Grande Synthe, northern France, Tuesday, Sept.17, 2019. French police are evacuating at least 900 migrants from a gym near the English Channel, citing concerns about security and hygiene. (AP Photo)

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The Latest on migration into Europe (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Police in North Macedonia say they have detained 81 migrants found in a truck near the border with Serbia, after the driver ignored a police warning to stop for a check and later abandoned the vehicle.

Police said the migrants found late Monday were from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are believed to have entered North Macedonia illegally from Greece and were expected to be deported back.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees crossed from Turkey into Greece and through the Balkans to head to wealthier European countries in 2015, but the so-called Balkan route was shut down in 2016. Nevertheless, many still use smuggling routes through the Balkans.

The number of migrants caught entering North Macedonia illegally has increased by 20% so far this year.


4 p.m.

The Ocean Viking has picked up 61 people from a plastic boat off the coast of Libya, in the aid ship’s second migrant rescue of the day.

The ship now has a total of 109 migrants on board, including 22 children. All were rescued on Tuesday.

A spotter plane saw the second boat and transmitted an alert to both Libyan authorities and the rescue ship, which is jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders.


3:45 p.m.

The European Union’s asylum office says the number of people seeking international protection in 30 European countries rose by a monthly 26% in July.

EASO said in a statement that some 62,900 people applied for asylum during the month, taking the total number of asylum applications this year to about 400,500.

The number is higher than the same period last year but still much lower than the levels recorded in 2015-2016, when well over 1 million migrants entered Europe, most of them fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Those arrivals sparked one of the EU’s biggest crises as countries bickered over who should take responsibility for the migrants and whether other members were obliged to help.

Syrians, Afghans and Venezuelans made up around a quarter of the applicants in July. Many others came from Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Colombia, Iran, Nigeria and Albania.


1:10 p.m.

A humanitarian rescue ship has pulled some 48 people from an overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya.

The group of migrants, which included five women and nine children, was spotted less than 24 hours after the Ocean Viking resumed its search operations off the coast of Libya, where migrants hoping to reach Europe often launch in boats too flimsy for the journey across the Mediterranean.

The boat was spotted with binoculars in the Central Mediterranean by SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Norwegian-flagged ship jointly with Doctors Without Borders.

The Ocean Viking previously disembarked 82 migrants in Lampedusa, a small Italian island relatively near the Libyan coast.

Italy’s new coalition government includes the center-left Democrats, whose leaders have called for a more humane policy on rescue boats in the Mediterranean.


12:30 p.m.

Tunisia’s national guard says at least two people are dead and 14 are missing after a boat carrying migrants sank off the Tunisian coast.

National guard spokesman Houssameddine Jbabli told The Associated Press that authorities rescued nine people from the boat Tuesday and are searching for the others near Tunisia’s Mediterranean coastal city of Sfax.

He said Tunisian coast guard patrols have detained 192 people and stopped 10 boats trying to take migrants to Europe over the last two days. All those detained are Tunisian, except for three Iraqis.

The stepped-up efforts against illegal migration are coming as Tunisia mobilized more than 100,000 security agents around the country for Sunday’s presidential election.

Tunisia is both a source of migrants and a transit point for other African migrants seeking to reach Europe.


9 a.m.

French police are evacuating at least 900 migrants from a gym and a nearby tent camp near the English Channel, citing concerns about security and hygiene.

A spokesman for the Nord region said the migrants being removed from Tuesday from the town of Grande Synthe include an unspecified number of children with their families. Local media say the migrants include many Kurds from Iraq.

A court this month ordered the migrants removed, to stem violence and human trafficking in the neighborhood. The spokesman said the migrants are being taken to temporary shelters and allowed to apply for asylum.

Activist groups have warned that evacuations don’t stop migrants from coming to the area. Migrants fleeing poverty and conflict have long congregated in towns along the French coast in hopes of crossing the English Channel to Britain.

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