The Latest: Austria turns away 3,000 migrants in 20 days

By the Associated Press | January 13, 2016 | 4:45 PM EST

In this picture taken Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, Bavarian Minister for Justice Winfried Bausback talks to migrants at a school in the Bavarian town of Ansbach, southern Germany. Some 800 German judges, prosecutors and judicial officers are beginning to teach newly arrived asylum seekers the basics of law in their new host country. The legal primer classes for refugees in the southern state of Bavaria include lessons about freedom of opinion, the separation of religion and state and the equality of men and women. (Daniel Karmann/dpa via AP)

PARIS (AP) — The latest on the influx of asylum seekers and other migrants in Europe. All times local:

9:15 p.m.

Austrian police say they have turned away about 3,000 migrants in the past 20 days because they were lying about their nationalities.

Police spokesman Rainer Dionisio said Wednesday the development is due to more intensive controls at border points with Slovenia, from where about 3,000 migrants a day cross into Austria.

Those claiming to come from Syria, Iraq, and other flashpoints in the Middle East are questioned and translators check their accents to establish whether they are telling the truth. Those who aren't are turned back, including Moroccans, Algerians and other nationals making false claims.

Meanwhile, Austrian police say Germany has returned about 200 migrants trying to transit from Austria over the past few weeks for lack of valid documents or because they were seeking asylum in other EU countries.

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This item has been corrected to show 3,000 migrants have been turned away in the past 20 days, not since the start of 2016.

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5:10 p.m.

A key international monitor says migration to Europe is keeping up its high pace this year with more than 23,000 people reaching Greece and Italy via the Mediterranean already this month.

Spokesman Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration says figures collected by Wednesday show 22,895 people have reached Greece this year and another 260 reached Italy. IOM says 58 people have died in attempted crossings.

IOM says a combined total of about 6,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean in January of the two previous years. Millman said: "We're almost four times that, and we've still got most of January 2016 ahead of us."

The IOM says more than a million people crossed into Europe last year — mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing into Greece via Turkey.

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3:35 p.m.

A top European Union official has lambasted member countries for their slow response to the refugee emergency.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Wednesday that 2,000-3,000 people still arrive each day but that EU countries have agreed to share just a few hundred refugees from Greece and Italy.

Germany and Sweden notably have accepted large numbers, but Timmermans was speaking about an EU mandatory plan to share out 160,000 refugees announced last year.

He said that "less than 300 is not enough, to use the understatement of the year," and added that "we need to see change now in the coming weeks and months."

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3:25 p.m.

The European Union is giving Greece more than 1.36 million euros ($1.47 million) so it can fingerprint more migrants amid concern that people travel are being allowed to travel further without registering.

The EU's executive Commission said Wednesday the funds would pay for 90 fingerprinting devices "to ensure proper identification and registration of migrants."

The machines would be linked to an EU database set up to help determine which country should be responsible for handling any asylum applications by comparing collected fingerprints.

Under European border rules, applications are supposed to be processed in the country where a migrant arrives but these rules have been widely flouted.

The devices will be distributed around Greece's borders, including on islands in the Aegean Sea where hundreds of thousands of migrants have arrived from Turkey.

The migrants have overwhelmed Greece's border authorities and reception facilities.

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2:45 p.m.

Hungary's spokesmen says it is "probably going to be impossible" for the country to take back migrants who passed through on their way to Germany.

Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told the Associated Press on Wednesday that although Hungary tried to apply the European Union's asylum rules and register refugees "we are not going to take responsibility for developments that came after the German invitation for migrants (or) asylum-seekers coming through the Western Balkan route."

Kovacs said the record number of migrants in 2015 proves that the EU migrant registration system "is dead."

Kovacs also rejected criticism of Hungary's asylum procedures, saying the country applied "very tough rules" because what Europe was facing was "not a refugee crisis, it's a mass migration crisis."

Hungary approved 502 requests from asylum-seekers last year. However, over 90 percent of the 177,135 people who registered for asylum in 2015 left the country before their requests could be settled.

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1:15 p.m.

A senior Greek official says the government will ask Europe's border protection agency Frontex to help set up a sea deportation route to send migrants who reach the country illegally back to Turkey.

The official told The Associated Press the plan would involve chartering boats on Lesbos and other Greek islands to send back migrants who were not considered eligible for asylum in the European Union.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Athens hasn't yet formally raised the issue with other European governments.

More than 850,000 migrants and refugees reached Greece in 2015 on their route through the Balkans to central Europe. But the EU is seeking to toughen and better organize procedures for asylum placements, while Balkan countries outside the EU have also imposed stricter transit policies.

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11:40 a.m.

Sweden's prime minister has denounced a string of sexual assaults in Germany and Sweden against women in crowded areas.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told lawmakers Wednesday that "girls and women should be able to move around freely at night without fear of being assaulted. If assaults occur, society has to stand with the victims."

Reports of large-scale sexual assaults and robberies blamed on foreign men on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany, has sparked outrage in both Germany and Sweden, where police this week revealed they've known about similar incidents for at least two years.

"I felt a great anger as I learned about the reports from both Cologne and Stockholm. Those guilty must be punished," Lofven said.

Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, asked the prime minister whether he saw any cultural dimensions in the assaults, given that police have said most of the suspects were foreign nationals.

"Whatever the motive we have to work more with attitudes among young men," Lofven said. "It's never OK to grope or harass women."

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11:30 a.m.

A top European human rights official says asylum-seekers in Hungary run "considerable risk" of having their rights violated because of recent changes to asylum law and practices.

Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, issued a statement Wednesday related to complaints against Austria for transferring migrants to Hungary according to Europe's so-called Dublin asylum rules, despite concerns about Hungarian abuses.

Muiznieks visited Hungary in late November, and said "a considerable proportion" of asylum-seekers sent to Hungary were put in detention and that they "do not, as a rule, have their asylum applications examined on the merits."

Nearly 400,000 migrants fleeing war and poverty entered Hungary last year, and the government has tried to stem the flow, notably with border fences.