Migrants onboard the Open Arms vessel celebrate the news of an Italian prosecutor who has ordered that the migrants be disembarked on the island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. At least 15 more migrants jumped into the sea Tuesday from the Open Arms rescue ship in desperate bids to reach the shores of Italy after 19 days of being on the boat in deteriorating conditions as Italy refuses to open its ports. (AP Photo/Francisco Gentico)

The Latest: N. Macedonia police detain migrants, suspect

August 22, 2019 - 6:38 am

MILAN (AP) — The Latest on migration into Europe (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

Police in North Macedonia say they have detained 45 migrants in a van close to the border with Serbia and arrested the driver on suspicion of people-smuggling.

A police statement Thursday said 42 of the migrants are Pakistanis, two are Afghans and one is Syrian. They were spotted getting out of a van near a border crossing. The van driver was identified as a man from North Macedonia.

The migrants are believed to have entered illegally from Greece and to have paid smugglers to take them north through Serbia toward Europe's prosperous heartland. Police said they were taken to a camp near the southern town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.

Police say they have detained a total of 10,017 migrants who entered the country illegally in the first half of this year.

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2:20 p.m.

Police in northern Greece say a migrant who had apparently fallen asleep on rail tracks has been hit and killed by a passing train near the porous border with Turkey.

A police statement Thursday only identified the victim as a man from Iraq. Police said another Iraqi man, who had been with him and managed to get out of the train's way just in time, told them the dead man had been sleeping on the tracks.

The accident happened on Wednesday, near the village of Apalos just outside the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis.

The survivor told police that both had entered Greece from the land border with Turkey, a major illegal crossing point for migrants who often follow the rail tracks to find their way west to Alexandroupolis.

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1:40 p.m.

Slovenia has started erecting additional 40 kilometers (25 miles) of a fence on its southern border with Croatia to keep migrants out of the small Alpine state.

Slovenian border officials said Thursday the move comes as July saw the highest number of migrant crossings in a month since the migration wave peaked a few years ago, when thousands fleeing wars and poverty in their home countries tried to cross into European Union nations daily.

Slovenian police say in July a total of 1,740 migrant crossings were detected, while 7,415 were recorded in the first seven months of this year — mostly migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan.

Slovenia has already constructed about 180 kilometers (119 miles) of mostly barbed-wire fence with Croatia since 2016, costing some 19 million euros ($21 million).

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11:15 a.m.

The Ocean Viking ship is carrying 356 people, mostly Africans, rescued in the Mediterranean off Libya is closing in on two weeks at sea without being assigned a safe port to offload the traumatized passengers. Now charity workers decry that situation as "the new normal" as Europe fails to devise a systematic response.

Jay Berger, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders on the Ocean Viking, said by satellite phone Thursday that "it's a complete shame. It is inhumane ... There needs to be concrete action. This is not how people should be treated."

The Ocean Viking conducted four rescues off Libya from Aug. 9-12, and is in its 13th day without being permitted to disembark the rescued people, as dictated by maritime law. The ship, with a stated capacity of 200 passengers, has been sailing between the Italian island of Linosa and Malta, staying out of sight of land.

Berger said the passengers are becoming increasingly concerned that they will be taken back to Libya, where many suffered torture and detention.