PARIS (AP) — The latest on the influx of asylum seekers and other migrants in Europe. All times local:
Hungary’s spokesmen says it is “probably going to be impossible” for the country to take back migrants who passed through on their way to Germany.
Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told the Associated Press on Wednesday that although Hungary tried to apply the European Union’s asylum rules and register refugees “we are not going to take responsibility for developments that came after the German invitation for migrants (or) asylum-seekers coming through the Western Balkan route.”
Kovacs said the record number of migrants in 2015 proves that the EU migrant registration system “is dead.”
Kovacs also rejected criticism of Hungary’s asylum procedures, saying the country applied “very tough rules” because what Europe was facing was “not a refugee crisis, it’s a mass migration crisis.”
Hungary approved 502 requests from asylum-seekers last year. However, over 90 percent of the 177,135 people who registered for asylum in 2015 left the country before their requests could be settled.
A senior Greek official says the government will ask Europe’s border protection agency Frontex to help set up a sea deportation route to send migrants who reach the country illegally back to Turkey.
The official told The Associated Press the plan would involve chartering boats on Lesbos and other Greek islands to send back migrants who were not considered eligible for asylum in the European Union.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Athens hasn’t yet formally raised the issue with other European governments.
More than 850,000 migrants and refugees reached Greece in 2015 on their route through the Balkans to central Europe. But the EU is seeking to toughen and better organize procedures for asylum placements, while Balkan countries outside the EU have also imposed stricter transit policies.
Sweden’s prime minister has denounced a string of sexual assaults in Germany and Sweden against women in crowded areas.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told lawmakers Wednesday that “girls and women should be able to move around freely at night without fear of being assaulted. If assaults occur, society has to stand with the victims.”
Reports of large-scale sexual assaults and robberies blamed on foreign men on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, has sparked outrage in both Germany and Sweden, where police this week revealed they’ve known about similar incidents for at least two years.
“I felt a great anger as I learned about the reports from both Cologne and Stockholm. Those guilty must be punished,” Lofven said.
Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, asked the prime minister whether he saw any cultural dimensions in the assaults, given that police have said most of the suspects were foreign nationals.
“Whatever the motive we have to work more with attitudes among young men,” Lofven said. “It’s never OK to grope or harass women.”
A top European human rights official says asylum-seekers in Hungary run “considerable risk” of having their rights violated because of recent changes to asylum law and practices.
Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, issued a statement Wednesday related to complaints against Austria for transferring migrants to Hungary according to Europe’s so-called Dublin asylum rules, despite concerns about Hungarian abuses.
Muiznieks visited Hungary in late November, and said “a considerable proportion” of asylum-seekers sent to Hungary were put in detention and that they “do not, as a rule, have their asylum applications examined on the merits.”
Nearly 400,000 migrants fleeing war and poverty entered Hungary last year, and the government has tried to stem the flow, notably with border fences.