The Latest: EU nations to keep Balkan migrant route shut

VIENNA (AP) " The Latest on Europe's response to the influx of migrants and refugees to the continent (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Interior and defense ministers from 15 European countries have agreed to come up with new measures to ensure that the overland route from Greece remains shut for migrants seeking new lives in other EU nations.

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka and Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil say the officials decided to draw up a plan by April for the so-called West Balkans route.

Wednesday's meeting included counterparts from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Greece.

Some of the countries became arrival or transit points for the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants who started flooding Europe in 2015. Others oppose resettling migrants already in the EU on their territories.

Austria was instrumental in coordinating last year's shutdown of the route.

___

1:15 p.m.

European Union countries have only taken in around 12,000 refugees from overburdened Greece and Italy despite promising to share 160,000 almost 18 months ago.

A European Commission progress report on the refugee emergency shows that only 9,000 were relocated from Greece. Hundreds of thousands of migrants entered the country last year.

Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday that it is "highly urgent" for countries to live up to their pledges, with the legally binding scheme set to expire in September.

Timmermans urged countries to use "peer pressure" to force EU partners to react, but ruled out any immediate legal action against those not fulfilling requirements.

He said the Commission's March progress report will be "the moment where I draw my conclusions what next steps we could take."

___

12:50 p.m.

Albanian prosecutors say that six people have been detained on suspicion of illegally smuggling refugees from Arab countries.

A statement Wednesday said the six were part of an 18-member group whose arrests started in September after police found some 100 migrants, mainly from Syria, coming from neighboring Greece. The migrants would then head to Kosovo hidden in trucks, then Serbia before trying to reach Austria or Germany.

Each migrant would pay 900 to 1,250 Euros ($963 to $1330) for the illegal transport, prosecutors said.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has not been a major transit route for migrants through Europe so far, although small groups have tried crossing it to reach its northern neighbors.

___

10:30 a.m.

The interior and defense ministers of 13 European nations are meeting in Vienna on ways to prepare for a possible uptick in migrant flows once winter is over.

Convened by Austria's interior and defense ministers, Wednesday's meeting includes counterparts from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Greece.

Some of the countries became arrival or transit points along the now-closed west Balkans route for the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants looking for better lives. Others oppose resettling migrants already in the EU on their territories.

Austria was instrumental in coordinating last year's shutdown of the migrants' path into prosperous EU countries that began in Greece and wound through the western Balkans.

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 bpcf05 at 30 Mar 2017 20:51:02 Processing Time: 510ms