ISTANBUL – The Latest on Europe’s efforts to cope with the influx of migrants (all times local):
Pope Francis is asking migrants to forgive what he says is societies’ “closure and indifference” toward them.
The pope made the remarks Tuesday in a message to a Jesuit centre in Rome that has assisted refugees for 35 years.
Francis says people fleeing oppression, war and “unjust distribution” of Earth’s resources are brothers with whom to share bread, homes and life. Instead of being seen as a problem or expense, migrants should be seen as a gift, in the pope’s view.
Francis said migrants can be a “bridge that unites faraway peoples.”
Last week, Francis brought three Syrian Muslim refugees families to Italy aboard his plane after a visit to a Greek island. Some 3,000 migrants on the island face possible deportation back to Turkey under an EU deal.
An Afghan man has appeared in court on the Greek island of Chios after being charged with raping a 13-year-old Afghan boy in a refugee camp on the island.
Authorities said Tuesday the 29-year-old man was arrested after the boy’s parents reported the attack on Saturday. The boy was hospitalized, and the man was arrested shortly afterward.
The suspect appeared before a prosecutor Tuesday and was given until Thursday to present his defence. He was being held in custody on the island pending the new court appearance.
Greek police said this was the first such crime reported among the country’s refugee population.
Human Rights Watch says the initial round of deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey under a new European Union-Turkey deal were “rushed, chaotic and violated the rights of those deported.”
The rights group said Tuesday that Turkish authorities had not allowed visits by rights organizations or the United Nations to those sent back from the Greek island of Chios, and that those returned had lost contact with family and friends still in Greece.
Under an EU-Turkey deal meant to tackle the refugee crisis and signed last month, migrants arriving on Greek islands from the Turkish coast from March 20 onwards face deportation to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.
HRW said some of those deported from Chios on April 4 had not been informed they were being sent back and weren’t told where they were being taken.
Sixteen Iraqis who were offered asylum in the Czech Republic have decided to return home.
They arrived in the Czech Republic as part of 153 Iraqi Christians who were threatened by extremists and included in a program to receive asylum here.
After 89 arrived, 25 of them asked to cancel asylum procedures and travelled illegally to Germany where they were arrested; the government consequently stopped the program.
The 16 collected their travel documents last week and were heading also for Germany before police detained them near the German border. They again tried to apply for asylum.
But on Tuesday, Interior Minister Miland Chovanec said they asked to return to Iraq. No reasons were given.
Eight others from the 153 also decided to return home earlier.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says Turkey could easily call off the migrant deal struck with the European Union if visa rules for Turkish nationals aren’t relaxed within the next two months.
The deal struck by Ankara and Brussels sees Turkey accepting migrants deported from Europe in return for easier access to European visas for Turkish nationals.
The Anadolu Agency quoted the prime minister as saying that if Brussels did not hold up its end of the bargain by June then “no one would expect Turkey to adhere its commitments.”
Davutoglu spoke on his way to Strasbourg, France where he addressed EU lawmakers on Tuesday.
He said the deal had already led the number of migrant crossings to nosedive.
A poll shows a large majority of Romanians do not want migrants settling in the country, and opposition to them is growing.
The INSCOP survey found that nearly 85 per cent of Romanians questioned expressed a negative opinion about migrants and refugees moving to Romania.
Institute director Darie Cristea told The Associated Press Tuesday: “Migration is now perceived as a phenomenon that brings risks rather than a humanitarian problem. There is also the perception that European authorities are not handling the crisis well.”
The poll found that 11 per cent would welcome refugees.
In November, the same poll showed 80 per cent of people were opposed to migrants moving to Romania, up from 65 per cent in September.
The latest poll was carried out from March 21-28 in 92 places— from cities to villages— and 1,063 people were questioned. The poll has a 3 per cent margin of error.
The European Commission says it will be providing 700 million euros ($790 million) in emergency humanitarian funding for Greece until 2018 to help it deal with the massive refugee crisis that has seen tens of thousands of people stranded in the country — the first time such funding has been used to help a European Union member.
The funding, announced Tuesday, will be given to aid organizations that will work with the Greek government in providing assistance such as food, shelter, medical and educational services for refugees.
Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said he was in Athens signing agreements allocating the first 83 million euros to eight aid organizations, including UNHCR, the Danish Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the international Red Cross.