Austria is shrugging off the opinion of the EU’s top migration official, who says its plan to cap asylum-seeker numbers is unlawful.


Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner says the plan will be put into operation starting Friday, as foreseen.


The Austria Press Agency cites her as saying Thursday that Germany’s past decision to introduce limits remains legal and “is of course also so for Austria.”


She is responding to EU migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos. He says: “Austria has a legal obligation to accept any asylum application that is made on its territory or at its border.”


Austria on Wednesday announced that it would allow no more than 80 migrants a day to apply for asylum at its borders while allowing up to 3,200 people looking for asylum elsewhere to transit.




3:25 p.m.


The EU’s top migration official says an Austrian plan to cap asylum-seeker numbers unlawful.


Dimitris Avramopoulos said in a letter Thursday that “Austria has a legal obligation to accept any asylum application that is made on its territory or at its border.”


The letter to Austria’s interior minister, seen by The Associated Press, said imposing a ceiling on asylum-seekers “would be plainly incompatible with Austria’s obligations” under EU and international law.




3:20 p.m.


Police chiefs of the countries on the Balkan migrant corridor have announced a new way asylum seekers will be transiting the region, in an attempt to curb their illegal flow toward western Europe.


Croatia’s Vlado Dominic said Thursday that Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Austria have agreed that the main screening of the migrants would take place in Macedonia on the border with Greece and that those who pass the control will be transported under police escort all the way to the Austrian border.


So far, hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty were transported to the borders of each of the Balkan countries where they were separately screened and given temporary asylum documents before continuing their journey.


Dominic says that the new measures will be immediately implemented.




3:00 p.m.


Finnish police say that 103 Iraqis were flown to Baghdad on Thursday — the first flight from Finland to Iraq since the surge of asylum-seekers began last year.


Detective Superintendent Hannu Pietila says the Helsinki Police Department, which has organized flights for returning migrants for more than a decade, is ready to continue similar chartered flights between the two countries to meet a growing number of returning Iraqis.


Immigration officials said Thursday that more than 3,100 Iraqis have withdrawn their asylum applications since January 2015, but that most had left the country paying their own way back or getting onto flights organized by the European Union from other countries.


Last year, nearly 32,500 asylum-seekers arrived in Finland, a near tenfold increase over 2014. Some 20,500 were from Iraq.




1:55 p.m.


The Eurotunnel Group, which operates the undersea tunnel linking France and Britain, is seeking 29 million euros ($32 million) in compensation from the two governments over last year’s repeated disruptions by migrants.


Calais, the northern French city that is the site of the French side of the tunnel, is temporary home to about 4,000 migrants who hope to sneak across to England and a better life. Although migrants have camped there for years, in 2015 there was a marked increase in crossing attempts that led to numerous disruptions of passenger and freight services through the tunnel.


In reporting its annual results Thursday, Eurotunnel said both freight and passenger growth were hampered by Europe’s migrant crisis. Passenger traffic notably contracted after the November attacks in Paris by 3 percent, the company said.




1:40 p.m.


Norway says it is temporarily stopping payments to The International Organization for Migration’s office in Kabul for returning asylum-seekers because of “a clear risk of fraud and/or corruption.”


Christine Wilberg of the Directorate of Immigration says the Geneva-based U.N. agency should “take action to clean up,” because it is important that the money is used as intended.


During 2012-2015, Norway transferred 44 million kroner ($5 million) to the Afghan capital under the scheme which provides financial support rejected asylum-seekers who are set back from Norway.


Wilberg said in Thursday’s statement it was not immediately clear how much money has been affected.


Last year, more than 31,000 people applied for asylum in Norway.


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