The Latest: Serbia: 9,300 migrants try to get in since July


BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s migration crisis (all times local):

4:40 p.m.

Serbia’s defense minister says police and army patrols on the border with Bulgaria have discovered 9,300 migrants attempting to cross into the country illegally since mid-July.

Minister Zoran Djordjevic said Saturday the troops also have caught 53 people smugglers in that period.

Serbia has stepped up its border patrols with Bulgaria recently as part of efforts to curb the influx of migrants seeking to reach the European Union. Thousands of migrants have been stuck in Serbia looking for ways to cross into EU-member nations Croatia and Hungary.

Migrants have turned to clandestine routes after countries along the Balkans migration route closed their borders to migrants in March.

Serbian Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic says the government plans to toughen the penalties for people smuggling.

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2:45 p.m.

Romanian border police are investigating 17 Syrians on suspicion that they tried to illegally enter Romania.

Border police they detained the Syrians, 11 adults and 6 children, who had left Bulgaria and were walking toward Ostrov, in southeastern Romania, on Saturday morning.

The migrants told police they were trying to reach Western Europe. Romanian and Bulgarian authorities are jointly investigating the group on suspicion of illegally crossing the border.

In a separate incident, border police in southwestern Romania said they spotted five men, aged between 20 and 53, early Saturday who were trying to cross into Romania.

Four were Lebanese and the other was Algerian. Border police are investigating the five on suspicion of illegally crossing from Serbia and trying to enter Romania.

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1:25 p.m.

Muslims in Hungary say they are wary of the government’s anti-migrant referendum this weekend, which polls show has boosted xenophobic feelings.

The government, contending that there is a direct link between migrants and terrorism, is seeking a popular mandate in Sunday’s vote for its opposition to accepting any mandatory European Union quotas for resettling asylum seekers.

Timea Nagy, a Hungarian Muslim, says “I’m starting to feel that my own homeland is repudiating me.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said Hungarians have “no problems” with the local Muslim community, but he believes any mandatory European Union quotas to relocate asylum seekers, including many Muslims, would destroy Hungary’s Christian identity and culture.

Orban hopes that a rejection of EU quotas in the referendum will be mimicked by others and force Brussels to reconsider the plan.

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