The Latest: Portugal offers to take 35 people from Med. ship

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In this Aug. 13, 2019 photo made available Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, rescued migrants rest on the deck of the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking vessel, operated by two French humanitarian groups, as it sails in the waters between the Italian island of Linosa, southern Italy, and Malta. Another potential migrant standoff looms as the Ocean Viking, carrying 356 migrants, has been sailing for 10 days without being able to dock after Malta refused to find a safe port while Italy hasn’t answered the ship’s request. (Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF via AP)

MILAN (AP) — The Latest on migration into Europe (all times local):

6;55 p.m.

Portugal is offering to take 35 people from the Ocean Viking rescue ship, following an appeal by the European Commission.

The Portuguese government said in a statement Thursday that France, Germany, Romania and Luxembourg are also ready to take some of the 356 people, mostly Africans, who were rescued in the Mediterranean off Libya.

The Ocean Viking carried out four rescues off Libya from Aug. 9-12. It is in its 13th day without being permitted to disembark the rescued people. The ship’s stated capacity is 200 passengers.

The Portuguese government statement says Portugal has taken in 132 rescued migrants since last year.

It says Portugal is always ready to help, but adds that a comprehensive European solution to the challenge of migration is needed.

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3:35 p.m.

Police in North Macedonia say they have detained 45 migrants in a van close to the border with Serbia and arrested the driver on suspicion of people-smuggling.

A police statement Thursday said 42 of the migrants are Pakistanis, two are Afghans and one is Syrian. They were spotted getting out of a van near a border crossing. The van driver was identified as a man from North Macedonia.

The migrants are believed to have entered illegally from Greece and to have paid smugglers to take them north through Serbia toward Europe’s prosperous heartland. Police said they were taken to a camp near the southern town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.

Police say they have detained a total of 10,017 migrants who entered the country illegally in the first half of this year.

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2:20 p.m.

Police in northern Greece say a migrant who had apparently fallen asleep on rail tracks has been hit and killed by a passing train near the porous border with Turkey.

A police statement Thursday only identified the victim as a man from Iraq. Police said another Iraqi man, who had been with him and managed to get out of the train’s way just in time, told them the dead man had been sleeping on the tracks.

The accident happened on Wednesday, near the village of Apalos just outside the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis.

The survivor told police that both had entered Greece from the land border with Turkey, a major illegal crossing point for migrants who often follow the rail tracks to find their way west to Alexandroupolis.

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1:40 p.m.

Slovenia has started erecting additional 40 kilometers (25 miles) of a fence on its southern border with Croatia to keep migrants out of the small Alpine state.

Slovenian border officials said Thursday the move comes as July saw the highest number of migrant crossings in a month since the migration wave peaked a few years ago, when thousands fleeing wars and poverty in their home countries tried to cross into European Union nations daily.

Slovenian police say in July a total of 1,740 migrant crossings were detected, while 7,415 were recorded in the first seven months of this year — mostly migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan.

Slovenia has already constructed about 180 kilometers (119 miles) of mostly barbed-wire fence with Croatia since 2016, costing some 19 million euros ($21 million).

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11:15 a.m.

The Ocean Viking ship is carrying 356 people, mostly Africans, rescued in the Mediterranean off Libya is closing in on two weeks at sea without being assigned a safe port to offload the traumatized passengers. Now charity workers decry that situation as “the new normal” as Europe fails to devise a systematic response.

Jay Berger, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders on the Ocean Viking, said by satellite phone Thursday that “it’s a complete shame. It is inhumane … There needs to be concrete action. This is not how people should be treated.”

The Ocean Viking conducted four rescues off Libya from Aug. 9-12, and is in its 13th day without being permitted to disembark the rescued people, as dictated by maritime law. The ship, with a stated capacity of 200 passengers, has been sailing between the Italian island of Linosa and Malta, staying out of sight of land.

Berger said the passengers are becoming increasingly concerned that they will be taken back to Libya, where many suffered torture and detention.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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