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updated: 9/30/2015 8:53 AM

The Latest: For Iraqis, Finland is often the goal

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  • Four lifeguards from Barcelona, Spain, working as volunteers, help disembarking a dinghy as migrants and refugees arrive from the Turkish coasts to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million, with some 388,000 entering via Greece.

    Four lifeguards from Barcelona, Spain, working as volunteers, help disembarking a dinghy as migrants and refugees arrive from the Turkish coasts to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million, with some 388,000 entering via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • Refugees and migrants face Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.

    Refugees and migrants face Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.
    Associated Press

  • A man carries his belongings as other migrants and refugees arrive on a ferry from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The Greek ferry Blue Star Patmos is part of special ferry service for refugees and migrants that carries 1,800 paying passengers. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    A man carries his belongings as other migrants and refugees arrive on a ferry from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The Greek ferry Blue Star Patmos is part of special ferry service for refugees and migrants that carries 1,800 paying passengers. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • A Syrian man holds his two children as the other two family members follow him after their arrival from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    A Syrian man holds his two children as the other two family members follow him after their arrival from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • Doctor Barbara Suter from Doctors of the World administers medicine to an Afghan girl at a refugee camp near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    Doctor Barbara Suter from Doctors of the World administers medicine to an Afghan girl at a refugee camp near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • A man carries his belongings as other migrants and refugees arrive on a ferry from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The Greek ferry Blue Star Patmos is part of special ferry service for refugees and migrants that carries 1,800 paying passengers. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    A man carries his belongings as other migrants and refugees arrive on a ferry from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The Greek ferry Blue Star Patmos is part of special ferry service for refugees and migrants that carries 1,800 paying passengers. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million as some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • Refugees and migrants walk to cross the border from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    Refugees and migrants walk to cross the border from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • Refugees and migrants face Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.

    Refugees and migrants face Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.
    Associated Press

  • A boy stands near to  a pile of clothes left by migrants, as people wait inside a large tent, to be allowed to cross from the northern Greek village of Idomeni, to southern Macedonia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.

    A boy stands near to a pile of clothes left by migrants, as people wait inside a large tent, to be allowed to cross from the northern Greek village of Idomeni, to southern Macedonia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million. Some 388,000 have entered via Greece.
    Associated Press

  • Refugees and migrants are surrounded by Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.

    Refugees and migrants are surrounded by Italian police officers in riot gear at the Franco-Italian border in Ventimiglia, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline.
    Associated Press

  • Syrian Hussam Jaban, foreground, walks to cross the border from the northern Greek village of Idomeni into Macedonia, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Jaban, 21, said he swam to a small Greek island from the nearby Turkish coast to avoid paying smugglers for the crossing. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million.

    Syrian Hussam Jaban, foreground, walks to cross the border from the northern Greek village of Idomeni into Macedonia, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Jaban, 21, said he swam to a small Greek island from the nearby Turkish coast to avoid paying smugglers for the crossing. The International Organization for Migration says a record number of people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year, now topping a half a million.
    Associated Press

  • Hundreds of migrants and refugees wait for their registration at Berlin's central registration center for refugees and asylum seekers LaGeSo (Landesamt fuer Gesundheit und Soziales - State Office for Health and Social Affairs) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.

    Hundreds of migrants and refugees wait for their registration at Berlin's central registration center for refugees and asylum seekers LaGeSo (Landesamt fuer Gesundheit und Soziales - State Office for Health and Social Affairs) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.
    Associated Press

  • Hundreds of migrants and refugees wait for their registration at Berlin's central registration center for refugees and asylum seekers LaGeSo (Landesamt fuer Gesundheit und Soziales - State Office for Health and Social Affairs) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.

    Hundreds of migrants and refugees wait for their registration at Berlin's central registration center for refugees and asylum seekers LaGeSo (Landesamt fuer Gesundheit und Soziales - State Office for Health and Social Affairs) in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.
    Associated Press

  • In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 18, 2015, refugees arrive in Tornio, northwestern Finland. Finland, on the northeastern frontier of the EU with vast expanses of forests and reindeer roaming the wilds of Lapland, with long, dark, cold winters, has not been a prime destination for population flows in Europe, but now hundreds of people are crossing daily from neighboring Sweden after traveling through that country by train or bus. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP) FINLAND OUT, NO SALES

    In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 18, 2015, refugees arrive in Tornio, northwestern Finland. Finland, on the northeastern frontier of the EU with vast expanses of forests and reindeer roaming the wilds of Lapland, with long, dark, cold winters, has not been a prime destination for population flows in Europe, but now hundreds of people are crossing daily from neighboring Sweden after traveling through that country by train or bus. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP) FINLAND OUT, NO SALES
    Associated Press

 
 

PARIS -- The latest developments as European nations struggle to cope with tens of thousands of people trekking across the continent to find safety. All times local:

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3:50 p.m.

Finland has suddenly and unexpectedly emerged as a top destination for Iraqis who are crossing the Mediterranean to Europe along with hundreds of thousands of others fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

Some 11,900 Iraqis have applied for asylum in Finland this year, accounting for 70 percent of all claims. More than 8,600 arrived in September alone.

"For me, this is where I want to be," said Firas Afandi a 48-year-old Iraqi electrical engineer said outside a reception center for asylum-seekers in Helsinki. "People here are civilized, calm and it's quiet."

Finnish officials say the sudden increase seems to be partly driven by online rumors about quick handling of asylum applications, generous benefits and an abundance of jobs. In reality, Finland's reception for asylum-seekers differs little from other EU countries, and its economy has entered its fourth year of recession.

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3:40 p.m.

How long does it take to swim from Turkey to Greece?

Hussam Jaban, a 21-year-old English literature student from Syria, said it took about four hours to swim from the small Turkish resort of Kas to the eastern Greek island of Castellorizo.

Jaban told The Associated Press he swam with 12 other people "and we all made it." He said the group "had a small inflatable boat for a three-year-old child and we pushed it along."

Speaking Wednesday as he crossed into Macedonia, Jaban said he swam to avoid paying smugglers and keep enough money for the rest of the long journey through Europe to seek safety.

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3:05 p.m.

Slovakia's prime minister says his government has formally approved challenging a European Union decision to redistribute 120,000 asylum-seekers among the bloc's 28 nations.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico declined to give further details about the lawsuit Wednesday.

After the refugee-sharing move was approved by EU ministers last week, Fico said Slovakia was not ready to accept the plan and was planning a legal complaint against it at an EU court in Luxembourg.

Slovakia voted against the plan along with the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary.

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1:15 p.m.

Relief agencies have set up a tent city at Greece's border with Macedonia to cope with the growing number of migrants and refugees trying to reach central Europe.

The facilities, being set up over the past week, reached a capacity of 1,000 Wednesday outside the Greek border town of Idomeni, one of the busiest bottlenecks in the country.

Police said about 4,500 people had arrived at Idomeni in the past 24 hours, most by bus from Athens.

The uneven arrival of refugees - most fleeing Syria's civil war - has forced many to spend the night at the border.

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12:35 p.m.

A Danish court has jailed a 25-year-old stateless Palestinian for three weeks who is suspected of attempted murder for stabbing a policeman in Denmark's largest asylum center.

Police spokesman Henrik Suhr says in a statement that police found some evidence the suspect may have sympathies for Islamic extremists in Syria, but added the man also "may be mentally unstable." He said the man was about to be deported.

No further details emerged from Wednesday's custody hearing held behind closed doors. The policeman was seriously injured Tuesday at Center Sandholm, north of Copenhagen.

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12:20 p.m.

Italy's top security official says fewer migrants are arriving in Italy this year, contrary to European trends.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told the Schengen Commission on Wednesday that 130,577 asylum-seekers have arrived in Italy so far this year, 8,000 fewer than the same period last year.

At the same time, the number of migrants arriving in the European Union this year has more than doubled to over 522,000.

Eritreans fleeing political oppression and forced military conscription are the largest group arriving in Italy, about 27 percent of the total. Nigerians are next, followed by Somalians and Syrians, who have largely shifted their route to the much shorter, less dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

Alfano said Italy is now hosting 98,000 migrants.

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11:40 p.m.

Italian police have emptied out a migrant tent camp in the border city of Ventimiglia, prompting dozens of migrants to flee to rocks along the shoreline. There were no reports of violence.

Mayor Enrico Ioculano told Sky TG24 the city had sought to have the camp near the French border removed for months, saying it created "numerous difficulties" for the city and its residents.

Ventimiglia was a flashpoint in June, when migrants were prevented from leaving Italy by heightened French border controls.

Police stood by near the rocks hours after the dawn blitz Wednesday, with the atmosphere remaining tense. Italian news reports said the bishop of Ventimiglia had arrived to speak with the asylum-seekers and the volunteers helping them in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

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10:45 p.m.

Authorities in Greece say 2 people have died and 47 people have been rescued from a dinghy near the island of Lesbos.

The Greek Coast Guard said the incident occurred early Wednesday and that the bodies recovered were of a woman and a child. The survivors were being taken to the island. The circumstances of their deaths were not immediately clear.

Lesbos is the busiest entry point for migrants reaching the European Union, with some 2,000 arrivals per day from nearby Turkey. Most are Syrians fleeing the country's civil war. The International Organization for migration says over 522,000 people - a record number - have crossed the Mediterranean this year seeking refuge in Europe, 388,000 coming through Greece.

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10:15 a.m.

French authorities say an Eritrean migrant has been found dead in the tunnel beneath the English Channel, the latest of several killed this year as thousands of people fleeing poverty and war try to cross illegally from France into Britain.

The administration for the Pas-de-Calais region says the migrant was apparently hit by a freight train near the entrance to the tunnel in Calais. It said the man was in his 20s and was found alone Wednesday.

Eurotunnel, which operates the freight trains, lamented an "accident that unfortunately only confirms that any attempt to cross the Channel illegally carries considerable risks."

Thirteen people have now been killed trying to sneak across the Channel this year. French and British authorities have tried to crack down on the dangerous journeys.

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