WARSAW, Poland — The Latest on Europe’s response to the wave of immigration from the Middle East and Africa (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

Greek authorities have rescued 31 migrants from a crippled vessel off the country’s western coast, after receiving a distress call.

The coast guard said the boat was found Wednesday off the island of Paxi, and the migrants were being transferred to the mainland port of Igoumenitsa.

The migrants, whose nationalities were not immediately known, were believed to have been heading to Italy.

Greece is a major entry point for refugees and other migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Nearly 60,000 remain trapped in the financially struggling country due to a series of Balkan border closures and slow implementation of an agreement to share refugees among European Union members.


1:30 p.m.

Switzerland’s executive branch has announced plans to step up processing of asylum requests, amid a growing backlog of migrants trying to enter from Italy.

The Federal Council set Oct. 1 for the first phase of reforms to Swiss laws aimed to expedite processing of asylum-seekers, after more than two-thirds of Swiss voters accepted the plan in a summer referendum.

The council also said Wednesday it would boost monitoring of asylum-request rejections by Switzerland’s powerful regions, and penalize them financially if they fail to follow the law.

Switzerland’s southern region of Ticino has seen a surge of migrants in recent months from neighboring Italy. Many others were sent back to Italy for trying to enter without proper papers or not making formal asylum requests.


1:25 p.m.

Pope Francis has asserted his concern for the plight of refugees by assuming direct responsibility for migrant issues in a new Vatican department that merges four Vatican offices into one handling peace, the environment and human trafficking matters.

The Vatican issued the statutes Wednesday for the new Vatican dicastery, which puts the pontifical councils for migrants, peace and justice, health workers and charity under one roof. The reorganization is part of Francis’ overall reform of the Vatican bureaucracy to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of local dioceses.

Francis named as the department’s prefect Cardinal Peter Turkson, currently head of the Vatican’s justice and peace office who was the front-man for Francis’ landmark environment encyclical. But the Vatican said Francis would personally oversee migrant issues.


1:20 p.m.

Poland’s interior minister says Poland has denied entry to a group of Chechens because the country is sealing its border to protect the nation and Europe against the threat of terrorism.

Mariusz Blaszczak was commenting Wednesday on Poland’s refusal this week to admit some 200 Chechens from Belarus, across the European Union’s external border.

Speaking on TVN24 Blaszczak said: “The point is to ensure security to Europe,”

He says that as long as the conservative Law and Justice party was in power “we will not expose Poland to the threat of terrorism.”

He did not explain why he linked the Chechens to terrorism.

Poland rejects the EU plan for the group’s members to share responsibility for sheltering migrants fleeing conflict in Syria, the Middle East and Africa.