Europe

The Latest: Greece stops speedboat taking migrants to Italy

The Latest on Europe's response to the large numbers of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have made their way to the continent (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Greek authorities say they have stopped a speedboat off the country's western coast carrying 33 migrants to Italy and arrested a suspected smuggler. Another 19 migrants and three smugglers were stopped in other parts of the country.

A coast guard statement says the arrests at sea were made late Wednesday following a chase off the western islet of Antipaxos. The detainees' nationalities were not made public.

Also Thursday, police in northern Greece said they arrested three Bulgarians allegedly carrying 12 Pakistani and Afghan nationals in a small van and a car. The migrants had been picked up near Greece's northeastern border with Turkey.

Further south, police detained six Pakistanis and an Afghan who were dumped by a highway when smugglers driving them to Athens saw a roadblock ahead.

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11:57 a.m.

The European Union has earmarked hundreds of millions of euros for the northern African nation of Niger as part of its efforts to stop migrants from reaching Europe.

Niger is a main transit route for people moving from Western Africa to Libya, where many board unseaworthy boats to cross the Mediterranean to Italy in search of better lives.

The EU's executive Commission announced Thursday that it would provide Niger with 610 million euros ($640 million) in development aid, and a further 140 million euros ($147 million) for nine projects under the bloc's fund for Africa.

The EU is developing other deals to manage migration with Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

Debate has swirled about setting up similar arrangements with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan but the deals are extremely expensive.