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BERLIN, August 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The German government said that Greece has agreed to take back migrants who apply for asylum there and later turn up at Germany's border with Austria.

That brings the government closer to implementing a deal to defuse a German political spat over migration.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Eleonore Petermann said Friday Germany and Greece have reached an agreement and need only a formal exchange of letters to complete it. She wouldn't give details ahead of its signing.

The deal with Greece follows an agreement with Spain that took effect last weekend. Petermann said talks with Italy are "far advanced."

In June, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer threatened to turn back previously registered migrants unilaterally at the German-Austrian border. Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Germany must first reach agreements with other countries.

MILAN, August 13, 2018 (News Wires) — Italy's transport minister says Britain should take in 141 migrants picked up by a rescue ship that sails under the flag of the British territory of Gibraltar.

Italy continues to refuse port to ships run by humanitarian groups, and Danilo Toninelli said on Monday on Twitter that Britain should take responsibility for the migrants aboard the Aquarius, operated by French humanitarian groups.

Toninelli said the rescue was coordinated by the Libyan coast guard and that the ship was now in Maltese waters.

The French aid groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders have called on European nations to identify a close port of safety so the 141 migrants picked up in two rescues on Friday could disembark. Most of the migrants are from Somalia and Eritrea and include 67 unaccompanied minors.

ISTANBUL, August 9, 2018 (News Wires) - Nine people died on Thursday when a boat carrying migrants sank off the western coast of Turkey, the Turkish coast guard said. Four people were rescued.

The boat sank off the coast of Aydin province, near Kusadasi, a popular tourist destination, it said.

In 2015, Turkey became one of the main launch points for more than a million migrants taking the sea route to the European Union, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

A 2016 deal between Turkey and the European Union sharply reduced the flow, after hundreds died crossing to Greek islands a few miles off the Turkish shore.

Mediterranean arrivals to the bloc, including refugees making the longer and more perilous crossing from north Africa to Italy, were 172,301 in 2017, down from 362,753 in 2016 and 1,015,078 in 2015, according to UN data.

Up until Tuesday, 54 people described by the Turkish coast guard as "irregular migrants" died this year in the sea off Turkey, according to the coast guard's website.

MADRID, August 5, 2018 (News Wires) - Almost 400 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this weekend as they attempted to make the crossing from Morocco to Spain, Spanish rescue services said.

While the overall numbers of migrants reaching Europe by sea is down from the peak in 2015, Spain has witnessed a steady increase in sea arrivals that began more than a year ago and has surged in recent months.

Through Saturday, 395 people were rescued from nine boats in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea, the two principal sea crossings to Spain, the Spanish coastguard said on Twitter. Two more people were rescued from a small boat on Sunday, it said.

Spain, which for the first time in years has overtaken Italy as the preferred destination for refugees, has registered almost 21,000 migrants so far this year, almost more than in the whole of last year, according to figures compiled by the International Organisation for Migration.

The mortality rate for the crossing from Morocco is around one in 70, IOM said, lower than that between Libya and Italy, which is one in 19.

GENEVA, August 4, 2018 (MENA) - More than 1,500 refugees and migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the first seven months of this year, the UNHCR said in its report recently.

The bleak milestone was confirmed after more than 850 lives were lost in June and July alone, marking the Mediterranean crossing as the deadliest sea route in the world, the report added.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is particularly concerned as the rate of deaths is increasing, despite the total number of people arriving on European shores being significantly reduced compared to previous years, the report read.

Around 60,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, around half as many as during the same period last year, and a return to pre-2014 levels. However, 1 in every 31 people attempting the crossing in June and July died or are missing, compared to 1 in 49 during the course of 2017, the report said.

“UNHCR urges states and authorities along transit routes to take all necessary action to dismantle and disrupt smuggler networks,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean. “In order to save lives at sea, we must use appropriate and necessary measures to hold to account those who seek to gain profit from the exploitation of vulnerable human beings.”

Exploitative traffickers and smugglers are reportedly organising increasingly dangerous crossings, in ever-more unseaworthy and flimsy vessels. These boats, which smugglers severely overload with passengers, are then left to sail out at sea in the hope that a rescue will come in time.

Without further action, more people are expected to perish at sea in the months ahead, as traffickers look to exploit the opportunities offered by improved weather conditions.

Unlike in previous years when Italy received the majority of new arrivals, Spain has become the primary destination, with more than 23,500 people arriving by sea, compared to around 18,500 in Italy and 16,000 in Greece.

 

MADRID, July 29, 2018 (News Wires) — Spain’s maritime rescue service says it has saved 123 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa.

The service says it pulled the migrants from 12 different boats intercepted by rescue craft Sunday morning in the Strait of Gibraltar.

The latest arrivals come after Spain rescued nearly 1,000 people attempting the perilous journey from African to European shores on Friday and Saturday.

Spain has received over 20,000 migrants by sea in 2018. A crackdown by Libyan authorities and Italy’s refusal to let rescue boats dock has made it more difficult for migrants to reach Italy.

Human trafficking mafias pack the migrants into small craft unfit for open waters. Over 1,500 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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