- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) - The latest news on the influx of asylum-seekers and other migrants in Europe. All times local:

4:55 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says there’s no easy solution to the migrant crisis that saw a million-strong influx of people to Europe last year.


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Frank-Walter Steinmeier says closing borders - as some countries have done - won’t prevent people from trying to enter Europe.

Steinmeier said Tuesday that the root causes driving people to flee their homes, such as conflicts in the Middle East, need to be tackled.



He said Turkey’s cooperation is also key, since the country is an important transit point for migrants on the way to Europe. He urged European countries to make good on their pledge of 3 billion euros in financial assistance to Turkey.

Steinmeier says North African states must also take back failed asylum-seekers, as western Balkan nations already do.

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4 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says the EU has just two months to sort out its migration policy or face the possible collapse of Europe’s passport-free travel area.

Tusk told EU lawmakers on Tuesday that “we have no more than 2 months to get things under control.”

He said a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on March 17-18 “will be the last moment to see if our strategy works.”

Tusk said that “if it doesn’t, we will face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen,” the 26-nation zone in Europe where people can travel without ID checks.

The EU spent most of 2015 devising policies to cope with the arrival of more than 1 million people fleeing conflict or poverty, but few are having a real impact.

___

3:55 p.m.

A group of migrants whose asylum applications are deemed groundless and who face deportation to Russia from where they entered Norway are opposing their extradition.

Norwegian police say they plan to return the roughly 5,500 people who rode across the border at Storskog in Norway’s remote Arctic region on bicycles from Russia. The crossing is closed to pedestrians.

Norway considers Russia a safe country from where one can’t seek asylum.

Local broadcaster NRK said Tuesday up to 50 people who face deportation had disappeared from an asylum center. There were scattered reports of hunger striking migrants and others refusing to board buses taking them to Russia despite below-freezing temperatures.

Last year, Norway returned 371 people from mainly Afghanistan, Syria, Nepal and Pakistan via Storskog.

___

3:35 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is warning that aid groups face a massive challenge to help up to 1.5 million civilians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul under the control of the Islamic State group.

UNHCR Baghdad representative Bruno Geddo said Tuesday that “the mother of all battles is going to be in Mosul.”

He said before talks in Brussels with European officials that the Iraqi city is contaminated with mines and booby-traps, and that this will hamper any efforts to provide relief.

But Geddo said problems are likely to start first in Fallujah, western Iraq, where some 200,000 civilians are living and IS has been operating.

He warned that many Iraqis remain determined to leave, saying that “when you flee for your life there is no amount of discouragement that can make you go back.”

___

3:30 p.m.

Austria’s interior ministry says the country will tighten entry requirements later this week for migrants by only letting in those seeking asylum in Austria or neighboring Germany.

Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said Tuesday the restriction will be implemented as of Friday. As of then, migrants coming in can do so only at the main Spielfeld crossing with Slovenia.

With most migrants who enter Austria already planning to stay there or to proceed to Germany, it is unclear whether the restriction will greatly reduce the flow.

Austria already re-imposed controls in September on its border to Slovenia, from where migrants have been entering since Hungary sealed its borders in the summer to those heading westward toward prosperous EU countries. But the move may mean a greater police and military presence.

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3:15 p.m.

The four Central European members of the European Union have reconfirmed their fierce opposition to a plan to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers among the bloc’s 28 nations and called for the strict control and registration of all refugees on the external border of the EU visa-free Schengen zone.

Representatives of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who form an informal grouping known as the Visegrad Four or V4, say they are united against the plan.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, who hosted Tuesday’s meeting says: “The V4 countries still reject the system of compulsory quotas for relocation.”

Slovakia and Hungary have already legally challenged the system.

In another disagreement with Brussels, the four also refused a recent EU proposal to tighten the gun-control rules following the Paris attacks.

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3 p.m.

Officials from Slovenia and Serbia have warned that if Austria scales down the influx of refugees into the country that would cause a domino effect and tensions down the so-called Balkan migrant corridor.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic called Tuesday for a joint EU-backed plan to manage the crisis before an expected surge in the number of Europe-bound migrants in spring.

Erjavec says “we can expect some states to introduce stricter controls on their borders, which means countries in the western Balkans could become a pocket.” Erjavec says Austria has announced new measures for this week.

Dacic says migrants won’t be allowed to return to Serbia if turned back elsewhere. He warns of a “collapse” if case of a Balkan bottleneck.

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