The Latest: Police in N. Macedonia detain 161 migrants

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

5:25 p.m.

Police in North Macedonia say 161 migrants were stopped overnight trying to enter illegally from Greece.

In a statement, police said the migrants were discovered in the south of the country by local police and officers from other European countries who are helping patrol North Macedonia’s borders.

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They were said to be nationals of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea and had been travelling in four groups.

The migrants were taken to a detention center in the southern town of Gevgelija pending deportation to Greece.

Despite a series of border closures in early 2016, migrants trapped in Greece after entering illegally from Turkey still try to head north through the Balkans to Europe’s prosperous heartland.

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2:35 p.m.

British coast guards say they are conducting a search-and-rescue mission after small boats believed to contain migrants were spotted in the English Channel.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it is “coordinating a search and rescue response to a number of incidents off Kent,” a county in southeast England.

Coast guards said those rescued would be brought to shore, “where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.”

Last week the U.K.’s Border Force detained 37 people in small boats, including several children.

There has been an increase in the number of people trying to cross the English Channel to Britain in small vessels, though the numbers are tiny compared to the thousands crossing the Mediterranean to countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece.

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1:40 p.m.

Actor Richard Gere is visiting rescued migrants on board a humanitarian ship that has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea for over a week.

The Hollywood star took food and supplies by boat to 121 people aboard the Open Arms, a rescue ship floating in international waters near the Italian island of Lampedusa after it had been blocked from entering ports in Italy and Malta.

The 69-year-old actor carried fruit boxes on board and spoke to several migrants who had fled war-torn Libya on unseaworthy smuggling boats before being rescued. Gere urged the world to “please support us here on Open Arms and help these people, our brothers and sisters.”

Other European countries have yet to respond to the aid group’s request for a solution to the impasse over the rescue ship.

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12:55 p.m.

A ship operated by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has rescued 80 migrants from a rubber dinghy off Libya.

Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter Friday that the migrants were in distress, and posted pictures showing the migrants being ferried to the Norwegian-flagged rescue ship Ocean Viking aboard an orange dinghy.

A hotline for migrants run by a network of activists said it was alerted to the boat off Libya carrying 80 people, including five women and four children, and informed both authorities and the Ocean Viking.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has triggered a government crisis in Italy, said he is preparing to sign a ban on the ship’s entry into Italian waters. Under a new government decree, the ship would risk a 1 million-euro fine.

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