A group of Mediterranean countries, known as the MED 5, have called for more EU support, fearing the fallout from the Ukraine war could cause a surge in migration to the bloc.
Ministers from Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain met in the town of Pafos in Cyprus on Friday and Saturday for the MED 5's fourth meeting, although representatives from Italy did not attend.
The group called for more action to protect the EU's external borders, noting how more pressure had to be applied to Turkey to police its borders and stop migrants from leaving its territory.
"The time has come for the EU collectively and in a coordinated manner to demand that Turkey controls its borders, prevents illegal departures from its territory and takes measures against illegal traffickers, as it should", Greek Immigration Minister Notis Mitarakis said.
He underlined the need to restart the return process to Turkey, based on a migration agreement signed between Ankara and Brussels in 2016.
The group expressed fears that the Ukraine war could cause large numbers of people to want to come to Europe, as situations in their home countries become more difficult.
“The impact of the war and the increasing prices of basic commodities have resulted in a new wave of economic migrants,” said Bryon Camilleri, Malta’s Minister of the Interior.
“Sub-Saharan migrants who originally seek employment in Libya, turn to smugglers when things don’t work out as planned. People are dying around us! One tragedy after another. From Lebanon to the Atlantic,” he said.
The Ukraine war has fuelled global energy, food and inflation crises, with the UN warning in October that the world is on the brink of a recession.
While the EU already spends large sums on policing its common external border, MED 5 countries have previously claimed this was only to hold large numbers of people in borderline countries.
At the meeting, the assembled nations re-iterated their push for a holistic approach, which would see other EU countries taking on more responsibilities.
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