Greece’s education minister says a program to provide schooling for refugee children will start Monday and will include those whose families are due to be deported under an agreement between Turkey and the European Union.
Minister Nikos Filis said Wednesday that the EU-funded initiative would start at six schools in Athens and three other towns, before being expanded to the rest of the country through October. Classes will take place at state schools in the afternoon, he said.
More than 60,000 refugees are stranded in Greece due to European border closures, including some 10,000 confined to islands facing the Turkish coast.
Parent associations at several schools around Greece, as well as the country’s extreme right Golden Dawn party, have expressed objections to the refugee integration plan.
But Filis described the objections as “marginal.”
“As long as they are in this country, refugee children will play with Greek children,” he said. “Regardless of the circumstances any child is in, we are obliged to look after them and provide them with an education. It’s a legal obligation and a moral obligation.”
An Italian coast guard ship has come ashore with three more passengers than it picked up at sea after three rescued mothers gave birth on board.
Datillo’s commander, Capt. Alessio Morelli, said the mothers were among the 1,004 migrants — most of them Eritrean and Nigerian — rescued north of Sabratha, Libya. Once aboard, they gave birth “so we went from 1,004 to 1,007, two baby boys and one baby girl.”
The Datillo pulled into port in Catania, Sicily on Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, Italy’s coast guard reported that another 28 bodies were recovered during rescue operations a day earlier that saved 4,655 people. The operations followed the recovery of 10 bodies when more than 6,000 would-be refugees were picked up on Monday, according to the International Organization of Migration.
Serbia’s police say they have caught 71 migrants and arrested two people smugglers who transported them in vans.
A police statement said Wednesday one vehicle carried 34 migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and another had 37 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. The two drivers were detained and face criminal charges.
Serbian officials have vowed to step up military and police patrols on the borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia to stem the continuing influx of migrants.
The Balkan route, used by nearly 1 million migrants last year to cross to mainland Europe, was closed in March. Since then, hundreds still try to enter illegally daily in an attempt to reach the EU. An estimated 6,000 migrants are stranded in Serbia after Hungary further tightened its borders this summer.
More than 100 migrants who set off on foot toward Hungary to protest EU’s closed borders have agreed to end their march and return to the Serbian capital of Belgrade after spending the night out in the open.
The migrants on Wednesday boarded two buses in the town of Indjija, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Belgrade, where they camped overnight at a local gas station. Serbian authorities say some will be taken to centers for asylum-seekers.
Hundreds initially took off Tuesday from Belgrade toward the border with EU member Hungary 200 kilometers (120 miles) away to demand that the border open for people fleeing war and poverty.
More than 6,000 migrants remain stuck in Serbia after Hungary this summer introduced strict limits for asylum-seekers.
Police in northern Greece say 214 Syrian refugees have been detained after crossing a river that forms a natural border with Turkey.
Wednesday’s announcement marked the second recent mass crossing of the Evros River — 107 refugees were detained in the same border area last week.
A police official told The Associated Press that refugees and other migrants were taking advantage of current low river levels near the border town of Orestiada. The official was not authorized to speak to the news media and asked not to be identified.
Migrants are seeking alternative routes to the European Union after a crackdown on crossings to the Greek islands started in March, as part of an agreement between the EU and Turkey to stop the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe.