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The Latest: IOM eyes closer ties to UN to help migrants

A woman stands in front of her tent in the makeshift refugee camp near the Horgos border crossing into Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Friday, May 27, 2016. Nearly 400,000 refugees passed through Hungary last year on their way to richer EU destinations. The flow was slowed greatly by Hungary's construction of razor-wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
May 27, 2016 - 9:12 AM

GENEVA - The Latest on Europe's response to the migrant crisis (all times local):

6 p.m.

The International Organization for Migration says it's considering closer ties with the United Nations, but no final decision has been made.

Chief of staff Ovais Sarmad says in an email that a "working group" of IOM member states is in talks about the U.N. relationship but members want the organization to maintain its "operational flexibility and responsiveness." He said there will be no change to IOM's "business model."

While it has some activities similar to those of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, the IOM is a project-based, largely decentralized inter-governmental agency that helps monitor and assist migrants.

Sarmad's comments Friday came after U.N. health agency chief, Dr. Margaret Chan, suggested that IOM would become part of the U.N. "family."


4:00 p.m.

Hungary says it will soon open a third transit zone on its border with Serbia where refugees can apply for asylum.

Gyorgy Bakondi, homeland security adviser to Prime Minister Gyorgy Bakondi, said Friday that the new transit zone is planned to be set up in the village of Asotthalom.

Asotthalom Mayor Laszlo Toroczkai, of the far-right Jobbik party, said he was "not happy" about the plan although he supports government efforts to "stop the illegal migrants."

Hundreds of migrants are already waiting at two border transit zones — at Roszke and Kelebia — as Hungary is registering just 20 to 30 asylum-seekers a day at the makeshift registry points there.

The transit zones were set up late last year after Hungary greatly stemmed the flow of migrants toward Western Europe with razor-wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia.


3:15 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is urging Serbia and Hungary to find a solution for migrants camping in dire conditions at the border between the two countries, waiting to enter the European Union.

The UNHCR Representative in Serbia Hans Schodder visited the small tent city Friday that has formed on the Serbian side of the razor-wire fence Hungary put up last year to keep the migrants away.

Hungarian authorities have let through about 20 people a day, mostly families with small children. Schodder says about 300 migrants are camping at the border without toilettes and running water, relying on aid groups for food and drinks.

He has rejected comparisons to the now-dismantled camp at the Greece-Macedonia border where thousands were stuck for months after Balkan route closed in March.


2:00 p.m.

The U.N. health agency's chief has disclosed that the International Organization for Migration is set to become part of the U.N. "family."

Director-General Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization spilled the beans Friday at a briefing on migration and health during an annual WHO gathering.

Chan made the remarks while presenting "my brother" — her IOM counterpart William Lacy Swing — saying IOM "will soon be part of the U.N. family." Swing made no reference to Chan's comments in his own address.

The 65-year-old IOM is an intergovernmental group made up of 162 member states, has offices in over 100 countries and has held Permanent Observer status at the United Nations since 1992.


12:15 p.m.

Danish officials say five young men reached Sweden on foot by crossing a 12-kilometre (8-mile) rail and motorway bridge and tunnel from Denmark — the first migrants to do so.

Copenhagen police spokesman Steen Larsen say there group was stopped May 12 on the Swedish side and handed over to migration authorities there. Danish officials were unable to say what their nationality is, and Swedish migration authorities declined to comment on the case.

Oresund Bridge spokeswoman Sanna Holmqvist said Friday authorities were immediately informed when the group was spotted on CCTV cameras.

Larsen said Danes failed to locate them adding Swedish colleagues informed them five hours later they the men were in custody.

Since both countries tightened border controls in January, dozens of mainly asylum-seekers have tried to cross by foot. All risk fines for walking on rails.


11:45 a.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron will deploy another warship off the coast of Libya to help stop the trafficking of people and arms.

Cameron told leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Japan on that Britain was ready to crack down on smuggling. Four U.K. vessels are already involved.

In a tweet on Friday, Cameron said: "Once all relevant permissions are in place, I will deploy a naval warship to the south central Mediterranean to combat arms trafficking."

Libya's new U.N.-brokered government has asked for help in improving its coastal maritime operations and it is thought it will soon request that international ships also operate in territorial waters.

Some smugglers have sent migrants out in boats with only enough fuel to get them past the Libyan coast, leaving them to be drift until being spotted by EU ships.


11:40 a.m.

The U.N. refugee agency is expressing concerns that migrants and refugees who have been moved to several sites with "sub-standard conditions" after being evacuated from a makeshift camp near Greece's border town of Idomeni.

UNHCR says some evacuees were taken to "derelict warehouses and factories" with "insufficient" supplies of food, water, toilets, showers and electricity.

At a briefing in Geneva on Friday, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming called on Greek authorities, with financial support from the European Union, to find "better alternatives quickly" for some of those moved out from Idomeni, which is near the Macedonian border.

The agency said in a statement Friday that it was concerned that some families are being separated during their transfer from Idomeni, but noted that the evacuations took place "without the use of force."

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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