BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on the huge influx of asylum-seekers to Europe (all times local):
The Finnish prime minister says his offer last year to open his house to asylum-seekers is still valid but has been postponed due to security concerns.
Juha Sipila told national radio on Sunday that his September offer has become “too public” for any migrant family to stay there safely.
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Sipila and his family no longer use their house in the central Finnish county of Kempele after moving to Helsinki.
Officials confirmed Monday that Sipila had been advised by the government’s security experts and the Finnish security police to put the offer on hold for now. Sipila stressed that once the security situation has improved a migrant family is welcome to move in to the house.
The unexpected arrival of 32,500 migrants into Finland in 2015 has hardened anti-migrant sentiments among many citizens in the Nordic country of 5.5 million.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus says his government, under intense pressure to stem the flow of migrants to Europe, is considering a set of measures that would increase the country’s ability to combat human smugglers.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting Monday, Kurtulmus said the government has also agreed to rapidly implement a proposal that aims to increase border security by improving coordination between various law-enforcement agencies and government bodies.
Kurtulmus said the plan to combat human smuggling includes increasing the coast guards’ capabilities, designating human smuggling as organized crime and increasing punishments.
Turkey agreed in November to fight the smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The European Union pledged 3 billion euros ($3.25 billion) to help improve the refugees’ conditions in return.
French authorities have demolished a makeshift church and mosque at a camp in Calais populated by thousands of migrants.
A regional official said the operation Monday was the culmination of a two-week effort to clear a 100-meter security zone around the perimeter of the camp. The official said authorities the migrants and charity groups helping them were informed Jan. 19 of the pending demolition, and that no one was hurt in the operation.
The pastor for the church clashed with police holding riot shields as excavation machines crushed the simple structure, leaving an empty muddy field beneath.
The regional official, who wasn’t authorized to be publicly named, said the mosque had already been abandoned and no one protested its dismantling. He said migrants are free to build new places of worship.
–By Angela Charlton in Paris
In a protest that has gone viral online, Greek soccer players sat down on the field over the weekend to protest the growing death toll of refugees trying to reach the Greek islands from nearby Turkey.
Players from second-division host team Larissa and away team Acharnaikos, from near Athens, sat down for two minutes after the match started and supporters of both clubs clapped during the protest.
Despite the winter weather, 58,000 refugees in January traveled in smugglers’ boats across choppy seas to Greece and over 100 of them drowned.
In a statement Monday, Acharnaikos said “it was just two minutes out of the match between Larissa and Acharnaikos. It cost us nothing, but we hope with all our hearts that it rattles those responsible for this unspeakable tragedy.”
Germany’s interior minister is meeting officials in Kabul as his country tries to reduce the number of Afghans heading to Europe and considers how to get some of those who have arrived to return home.
Thomas de Maiziere’s ministry said he visited Afghanistan Monday to confer with Afghan officials on longstanding efforts to train Afghan police and on the migration issue.
Afghanistan was the second-biggest single source of new arrivals in Germany last year, after Syria. Out of nearly 1.1 million people registered as asylum-seekers, more than 150,000 came from Afghanistan.
De Maiziere told German news agency dpa that the security situation in Afghanistan is “complicated” but “there are unsafe and safe areas.” He said the aim is to make “people stay in Afghanistan and rebuild the country.”
The United Nations’ top human rights official says the assaults a month ago in Germany that have been blamed largely on foreigners must not be used as a reason to stigmatize migrants in general.
The New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne have heightened tensions over Europe’s migrant influx. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said Monday that suspects must be investigated but “what we do not want to see is the stigmatizing of an entire people because of those actions.”
Zeid said he is “deeply disturbed” by some European politicians’ rhetoric over migrants.
He says “it is utterly unacceptable that politicians can be so grossly irresponsible in pointing to the failings, entire failings of a state, and placing them on the shoulders of those who have suffered enough.”
___ 10:05 p.m.
Germany’s labor minister is threatening to cut benefits for migrants who don’t want to integrate into German society.
Germany registered nearly 1.1 million people as asylum-seekers last year. Integrating those who are allowed to stay into society and the labor market will pose a major challenge in the years ahead.
Labor Minister Andrea Nahles wrote in Monday’s edition of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “all people who live in Germany, no matter what their ethnic origin, must make an effort, seek work and support themselves and their families as well as they can.”
Nahles says “we will cut benefits to those who signal that they do not want to integrate.” She said that could be measured by willingness to abide by German society’s rules and to take language classes.