The Latest: EU agency reports drop in migrant arrivals

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VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — The Latest on European migration issues (all times local):

6 p.m.

The European Union’s border agency says the number of migrants entering the bloc without authorization continues to drop.

Frontex said Tuesday that it spotted 4,900 “illegal border crossings” in April, a fall of 19% over the previous month.

In all, about 24,200 crossings were detected in the first four months of 2019, 27% down from in 2018.

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More than half the unauthorized migrants were detected on Europe’s eastern borders. One in four were Afghans, while one in five were citizens of Turkey, a candidate for EU membership.

Just over 200 people crossed the central Mediterranean, once Europe’s busiest migrant route.

The EU was plunged into a political crisis in 2015 over how to handle migrant arrivals. Surveys say migration is a key issue in the May 23-26 EU elections.

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1:40 p.m.

A Maltese court has fined the captain of the German humanitarian ship that rescued more than 200 migrants because it entered the Mediterranean island nation’s waters last year with a ship that was not properly registered.

Though the court opted Tuesday against jailing the captain, Claus-Peter Reisch, due to the humanitarian backdrop, it did impose a fine of 10,000 euros ($11,300).

Reisch has eight days to decide whether to appeal the fine.

The court also denied a prosecution motion to confiscate the vessel.

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The Lifeline has been in a Maltese port since last June, and will be free to leave once any appeal is settled.

Malta agreed to give it safe harbor following a six-day standoff, but only after Italy and other EU nations agreed to take in the migrants.

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