The Latest: Merkel: Greece, Spain will take back migrants

Miguel Urban, Ana Miranda, Eleonora Forenza, Javi Lopez
The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — The Latest on the migrant crisis in Europe and Mideast (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Greece and Spain have declared that they’re prepared to take back migrants already registered in those countries who arrive in Germany.

Merkel is locked in a dispute with her interior minister over his call for German to turn back at its borders people who’ve already been registered or applied for asylum in another European Union country and his threat to carry out the plan over her objections. She has been adamant that Germany should not take unilateral action for fear that it could trigger a cascade of uncoordinated decisions.

Merkel said after a European Union summit in Brussels Friday that Greece and Spain, whose leaders she met bilaterally, agreed to take back in future migrants previously registered in those countries who are picked up at the German-Austrian border.

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3:25 p.m.

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the hard-fought migration deal reached overnight is only the first stepping stone to deal with the situation.

“It is far too early to talk about a success,” Tusk said at the end of the two-day summit.

EU leaders claimed a breakthrough deal early Friday on how to deal with the pressures of migration, after all-night talks helped accommodate Italian demands for more help.

The EU leaders said the agreement would bolster the bloc’s external borders and improve the solidarity among member nations to ease pressure on point-of-entry nations like Greece and Italy.

“This is in fact the easiest part of the task compared to what awaits us on the ground when we start implementing it,” Tusk said.

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1:10 p.m.

The captain of a ship operated by the Spanish Proactiva humanitarian group is expressing doubts about a Brussels agreement to recognize the Libyan Coast Guard as part of the Mediterranean rescue apparatus.

Astral Captain Riccardo Gatti on Friday questioned the professionalism of the Libyan coast guard, saying that they have never responded to sister ship Open Arms’ requests to offer rescue.

Gatti said that “for months now they have been presented as an official body, formal, very well-trained and legal, and these are the same people who have shot at us, who have kidnapped us,” adding: “All of this is theater.”

The agreement also calls for humanitarian groups not to obstruct the Libyan coast guard. Gatti said that he would continue to rescue migrants at sea, following international law.

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12:45 p.m.

Libya’s coast guard says about 100 migrants are missing at sea, feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of this North African country.

Spokesman Ayoub Gassim told The Associated Press that the coast guard rescued 14 migrants but he couldn’t provide definitive numbers for the migrants who were on board or their nationalities.

He says the boat capsized east of the capital, Tripoli, and the 14 were rescued on Friday. It was unclear when they embarked on the perilous trip for Europe or from where they had set off.

Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. Traffickers have exploited Libya’s chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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11:40 a.m.

The U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies are praising a European Union deal about taking in migrants from across the Mediterranean region, while cautioning that details need to be specified and pointing out that the involvement of the African Union is “indispensable.”

Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said it was “very pleased at the solidarity and consensus” that emerged from an EU summit in Brussels, in particular with the “frontline states” like Italy.

Doyle said he believed that most of the “disembarkation centers” planned by the EU would be in Europe, though he said it was up to the EU to determine which countries would host them.

Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for refugee agency UNHCR, said it was “still awaiting the legal analysis” of the summit’s outcome, but would welcome greater collaboration on asylum.

He noted that recently, for the fifth year in a row, the “grim milestone” of 1,000 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean was crossed.

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