The Latest: Refugees who paid for trip left on Greek highway

The Latest on Europe's response to the large numbers of refugees and migrants who have tried to reach or entered Europe (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

Authorities say 77 refugees and migrants were found walking along a highway in Greece after smugglers they had paid to drive them to Athens dumped them hundreds of kilometers away.

Police said Wednesday that there were 37 children and teenagers among the group of 65 Iraqis and 12 Syrians.

The refugees and migrants were found on Tuesday about 5 kilometers (3 miles) outside of Thessaloniki.

They told police they had paid 1,000 euros ($1,200) each to be smuggled into Greece from Turkey across the Evros River and then driven by truck about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south to Athens.

Police say about 1,500 people were caught in August entering Greece illegally across the Evros, which runs along the border between Turkey and Greece.


4:15 p.m.

Researchers say about half of the migrants who entered Europe during the mass influx in 2015 and 2016 are still awaiting decisions on asylum by the end of that period, and only a small percent had been sent home with their applications rejected.

The Pew Research Center said in a study Wednesday that of the 2.2 million asylum-seekers entering Europe in 2015-16, 52 percent were still awaiting decisions on their applications by the end of 2016, 40 percent had their applications approved, while 3 percent had been sent home.

Germany received most asylum-seekers with 1,090,000 applicants, but was among the most efficient at processing them with 49 percent waiting for decisions by the end of 2016. Hungary, by contrast, had 70,000 applicants and 94 percent were still waiting.


12:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a mantra when citizens questioned her decision to open the country to refugees fleeing wars: "We'll manage."

She kept repeating it as the lines at immigration offices circled city blocks, school gyms turned into temporary housing and the questions devolved into angry criticism.

A national election on Sunday could show how well voters think Merkel's government managed the refugee influx.

For the chancellor and her Christian Democrats, the signs are promising.

As Merkel campaigns for a fourth term, most of the 890,000 asylum-seekers who entered Germany two years ago are in language and job training courses. Students are again playing sports in the gyms. Rejected asylum applicants are being deported.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party has struggled to make immigration a major election issue.