The Latest: UN office defends visits to check on migrants

ROME (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants into Europe (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

The U.N. human rights office is defending plans by new U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet to send experts to Italy and Austria to see how migrants are treated.

Rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said it was “not unusual at all” for the office to deploy teams to countries, saying they often conduct “working-level visits to various countries where we see that there are human rights concerns for them to look at.”

She told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that rights office teams were dispatched to Bulgaria, France, Greece, Macedonia as well as in Italy in 2016. At times, the teams return to Geneva and write up reports about their findings.

Shamdasani said she didn’t have precise dates for the visits to Austria and Italy, but “I’m told it’s a matter of weeks.”

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4:45 p.m.

Greek police have detained more than 150 migrants hidden in trucks in two separate incidents outside the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Forty-eight migrants from Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories were detained Tuesday after the truck they were traveling in broke down. The driver fled and the migrants were spotted getting out of the vehicle.

In the second incident, also Tuesday, 110 people were detained when a truck was stopped and searched outside the city. Police said it was not immediately clear whether smuggling suspects were among those being questioned.

Authorities have reported an increase in smuggling arrests in recent weeks, while detained migrants say they are currently paying traffickers around 2,000 euros ($2,300) to travel across the border from Turkey and make the 450-kilometer (280-mile) journey to Thessaloniki.

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1:10 p.m.

Italy has issued a detailed retort to the new U.N. human rights chief over the treatment of migrants, saying her plans to send investigative teams to Italy were “inappropriate, unfounded and unjust.”

A foreign ministry statement Tuesday recalled all the praise Italy has received over the years for rescuing migrants, providing assistance projects in migrants’ home countries and cracking down on Libyan-based smuggling networks that have greatly reduced the number of arrivals.

The ministry said it hoped the data “will help the newly-installed high commissioner” understand Italy’s commitment and its track record.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who took over as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights last week, announced plans to send teams to Italy and Austria to examine the treatment of migrants after her first major address Monday.

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