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The Latest: German governing parties agree on migrant plan

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The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on European efforts to respond to the wave of migration (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Austria’s defense minister says the country is ready to completely close the main border crossing to Italy in case an influx of migrants from there leads to an “extreme situation.”

State-run broadcaster ORF on Thursday quoted Hans Peter Doskozil as saying such a move at the Brenner crossing would be taken if Italy refused to accept migrants turned back by Austria and they could not proceed to Germany.

Doskozil says Austria has registered between 16,000 and 17,000 applications for asylum since the start of the year. The country has announced a cap of 37,500 applications for 2016 after receiving about 90,000 last year.

He expresses skepticism about the EU-Turkey agreement on migrant returns saying “we don’t know how long the deal will last.”

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9:55 a.m.

Germany’s governing parties say they’ve agreed upon a broad range of measures to help the country integrate those of the 1.1 million migrants who arrived last year who are granted asylum.

The measures announced Thursday, which will be discussed with state governors before they’re formalized to present to Parliament, seek to strike a balance between giving migrants easier access to jobs and integration courses, while increasing expectations of them as well.

They foresee creating thousands of government-funded “job opportunities” for migrants, news agency dpa reported, and the suspension for three years of a rule that asylum-seekers are initially excluded from jobs unless no German or European Union citizen can fill them.

Waiting times for integration courses teaching German will be reduced, but they’ll be made mandatory for more migrants.

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9:30 a.m.

Serbian police say they have arrested six people suspected of smuggling migrants across the border to Hungary and other EU countries.

The six face charges of illegally crossing the state border and people smuggling.

Police said Thursday that the suspects charged the migrants from 900-1,200 euros ($1,000-$1,350) for the illegal transfer. They say the migrants were from Kosovo, Asian and African countries.

Migrants fleeing war and poverty have turned to smugglers to help them reach wealthy European nations after Balkan countries closed their borders for the passage.

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