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The Latest: Turkey catches 126 migrants heading to Greece

A man holds a poster of Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban that reads "What have I done again" during a protest by opposition parties against Orban's policies on migrants in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Hungarians vote in a referendum which Prime Minister Viktor Orban hopes will give his government the popular support it seeks to oppose any future plans by the European Union to resettle asylum seekers among its member states. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
October 03, 2016 - 9:29 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia - The Latest on the flow of migrants into Europe (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Officials say the Turkish coast guard has stopped 126 migrants attempting to cross into Greece over the weekend.

The governor's office for the city of Izmir said two separate inflatable rafts were intercepted on Sunday.

The first was carrying 25 mostly Syrians off the coast of Balikesir while the second was stopped off the coast of Izmir with 40 Syrians. Several children were among the passengers.

On Friday, a boat with 61 migrants was caught off the coast of Balikesir, according to the governor's office.

More than a million people reached Europe in 2015, with nearly 3,800 migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean after their overcrowded boats sunk.

Turkey and the EU reached an agreement earlier this year aimed at curbing the flow of migrants to Europe.

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4:10 p.m.

Hungary's prime minister is expected to keep migration as a key issue on his agenda after low turnout invalidated a referendum against EU refugee quotas but showed nearly unanimous support for the government position among its supporters.

Analysts said Monday that Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party will use their voters' aversion to migrants to distract from unpleasant matters like corruption and difficulties in the health sector.

Support in the referendum for Orban's opposition to future EU schemes to relocate asylum seekers within the bloc exceeded 98 per cent, but only 40.4 per cent of eligible voters cast valid ballots, far below the 50 per cent-plus-one-vote threshold.

Hungary is also suing the EU to avoid taking in 1,294 asylum seekers from the 160,000 sought to be relocated from Greece and Italy.

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2:55 p.m.

The European Union has sealed a deal with Afghanistan to speed the return of Afghans who do not qualify for asylum, just ahead of a donor conference in Brussels for the conflict-torn country.

Under the deal announced Monday, Afghanistan commits to readmit citizens not permitted to stay in Europe and supply travel documents for migrants without papers within a month.

The costs for sending people back will be covered by the EU.

At an international donors' conference on Wednesday, the EU is expected to pledge 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year to Afghanistan through till 2020.

The efficient handling of migrants does not appear to be a condition for receiving the funds.

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2:20 p.m.

A spokesman for the European Union's executive arm agrees with Hungary's electoral commission that a weekend referendum on EU migrant quotas was invalid due to insufficient voter turnout.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that because than less than the required 50 per cent of voters took part in referendum on Sunday, the vote was "declared legally void by the Hungarian electoral commission."

Hungary has staunchly opposed a Commission scheme to redistribute 160,000 refugees from overwhelmed Greece and Italy among other EU member countries.

Most of the 43 per cent of voters who did cast ballots Sunday supported Budapest's opposition to future, mandatory EU moves to relocate asylum-seekers.

Schinas said: "We respect the democratic will of the Hungarian people, both of those who voted and of those who did not."

--A previous version of this item has been corrected to show that a European Commission representative speaking about Hungary's referendum is a spokesman, not spokeswoman.

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12:55 p.m.

Serbia's president says the Balkan country will seal its borders to stop migrants if the European Union countries further along the migration route fully block their boundaries against people fleeing war and poverty.

Tomislav Nikolic said Monday that Serbia must avoid becoming a dead end from where migrants can no longer move forward. He says that at that point Serbia "will have to close its border for migrants ... because they don't want to be here."

Serbia has been toughening its policies lately after increasing numbers of migrants have entered the country looking for ways to cross into EU members Croatia or Hungary.

Serbia already has stepped up patrols along its borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria to minimize the influx. There are some 6,000 migrants currently in the country.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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