The Latest: Finland breaks up migrant smuggling ring


MADRID (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s response to mass migration (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

A Finnish border official says authorities have broken up a ring of international human traffickers who allegedly smuggled migrants into the country at two Arctic border crossings with Russia.

1st Lt. Teemu Mantyniemi of the Finnish Border Guard says 16 people are suspected of organizing the transportation of at least 45 asylum-seekers from India to Finland via Russia in January and February. The 16 suspected smugglers are Swedish, Dutch, Indian and Pakistani. Police are holding 13 of the suspects.

Mantyniemi told The Associated Press on Monday that the smugglers charge migrants about 15,000 euros ($17,000) each for a journey from India.

Border guards investigated the smuggling ring with officials in several countries, including Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia.

More than 1,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Finland from Russia during January and February.

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1 p.m.

Germany’s Interior Ministry says the country continues to see high numbers of asylum applications as migrants who arrived last year are processed, but the numbers of new arrivals are down significantly.

The ministry said Monday that 60,943 asylum applications were filed in April, up nearly 125 percent over the same month last year but only 1.6 percent higher than March.

Some 1.1 million migrants arrived last year and it often takes months before they can formally apply for asylum. The number granted asylum in April remained around 50 percent, with about 10 percent more being allowed to stay for other reasons.

Meanwhile, April saw some 16,000 new arrivals, down from around 21,000 in March, 61,000 in February and 92,000 in January. The largest groups came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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12:45 p.m.

Slovak officials say customs officers have opened fire at a car carrying migrants, injuring a woman.

Patricia Macikova, a spokeswoman for the Slovak Financial Administration, says the officials wanted to stop four suspicious cars coming from Hungary near Velky Meder shortly after midnight Monday. As one driver was trying to escape, Macikova says, an officer fired warning shots into the air before aiming at the car, injuring one migrant.

A 26-year-old Syrian woman was operated Monday morning in a hospital in nearby Dunajska Streda. Tomas Kral, a spokesman for a company that operates the clinic, said a projectile was removed from her back.

There was no immediate comment from police.

With border checks re-established on the Austrian-Hungarian border, the migrants could possibly go through Slovakia and the Czech Republic to get to Germany.

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11:10 a.m.

The maritime rescue service says it has picked up 44 sub-Saharan African migrants that set off in a boat from the west coast of Africa in a bid to reach Spain.

The service said the 42 men and two women were taken to the port of Arguineguin in Spain’s Canary Islands late Sunday after being rescued off the Western Sahara coast, some 100 nautical miles (200 kilometers) south of the islands.

The service said Monday it began the search for the boat after receiving a warning call from a non-government organization. The migrants were said to be in good health.

Thousands of migrants try to reach Spain each year either by attempting perilous sea journeys from the western Africa or across the Mediterranean Sea.

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