The Latest: Serbia arrests 12 for alleged migrant-smuggling

BERLIN (AP) " The Latest on Europe's response to the flow of migrants and refugees seeking to reach and remain on the continent: (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

Police in Serbia have arrested 12 people suspected of smuggling 250 migrants from the Bulgarian border to the Serbian capital.

A police statement issued Tuesday said the migrants were charged 250 euros ($260) each, plus an additional sum for squatting-condition accommodations in Belgrade.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says some 7,700 migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, have been stranded in Serbia following Balkan border closures last year and the European Union's attempts to control immigration.

Many are sleeping in makeshift shelters or parks in Belgrade, or near the border with Hungary they attempt to cross daily.

A group of Afghans tried to cross into Hungary over a frozen river last week and fell into the icy water. One man remains missing.

___

9:06 a.m.

Austria's defense minister says his country wants to step up efforts with countries along the Balkan migrant route to plug gaps in border protection, arguing that the route "is still not as closed as it should be."

The Balkan route was largely shut last March. But Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told Tuesday's edition of the daily Die Welt that there is still "significant activity by criminal smugglers," with 500 to 1,000 migrants a week getting through.

He said that "the situation could worsen at any time," pointing to Turkish threats to scrap an agreement with the European Union to stop migrants.

Doskozil said Austria plans "close cooperation in the framework of a new Balkan border protection offensive" with countries in the region.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 25 Mar 2017 02:04:27 Processing Time: 559ms