The Latest: Greece expands program to transfer refugees

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Migrants and refugees arrive from Lesbos island to the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Monday Oct. 7, 2019. In the last 24 hours 668 refugees and migrants have been transferred to mainland Greece from five Greek islands as authorities have accelerated efforts to ease over crowding in the camps. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

MILAN (AP) — The Latest on migrants trying to reach Europe (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Authorities in Greece have expanded a program to transfer migrants and refugees from overcrowded camps on the islands to the mainland amid concern that the number of arrivals from nearby Turkey could continue to rise.

More than 500 asylum-seekers arrived early Monday on ferries from the islands at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, and were being taken in buses to a newly setup camp in northern Greece.

An expected incursion by Turkish forces into northeastern Turkey has increased concern in Greece that more refugees may try to reach the European Union following a summer surge in arrivals.

Transfers to the mainland were expanded Sunday and Monday to include all five Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea with refugee camps.

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12 p.m.

French lawmakers are poised to debate immigration reform, taking up one of the country’s touchiest issues at a time when tent cities have expanded in cities across the country and asylum demands are spiking.

Monday’s debate is part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to confront the issue head-on during the second half of his presidency.

Demands for asylum have fallen across Europe since 2015 while continuing to rise in France.

The issue is particularly visible in Paris, where tent cities sprawl along a highway leading to the city and in a northern neighborhood.

Macron’s administration wants to discuss tightening eligibility for families and blocking social services for those who enter illegally, according to a draft document reviewed by the French newspaper Le Monde.

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11:30 a.m.

Spanish aid group Open Arms says it has rescued 44 people, including a toddler and a months-old baby, on a wooden boat trying to reach European shores.

Gerard Canals, chief of mission of the Open Arms rescue boat, says the boat was found late Sunday in Malta’s rescue zone, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Canals says that Malta’s rescue coordination center told the group not to offer the migrants any assistance. But Open Arms decided to rescue them anyway because the boat wouldn’t have made it to land without fuel.

In video remarks distributed by the aid group, Canals says that all 44 rescued — 38 men, 4 women, a 4-year-old boy, and a baby around 6 to 9 months old — are in good condition.

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10:20 a.m.

The Italian Coast Guard says at least nine people have died when a migrant boat capsized near the island of Lampedusa as they were about to be rescued. Twenty-two people were saved.

The coast guard said Monday the overcrowded smugglers’ boat overturned as a patrol was boarding migrants some 6 miles off Lampedusa just after midnight.

Authorities said 22 migrants were rescued from the sea, and nine bodies were recovered. The search is underway for more missing.

Initial reports by authorities in Sicily who received the distress call put the number of migrants on board at around 50.

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