Malta and Greece called Monday for Europe to take decisive action on illegal immigration at summit talks this week, insisting EU states follow up on promises to share the “burden”.
“Our borders are Europe’s borders and human trafficking is knocking on our doors,” Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said following a meeting with his Maltese counterpart, Joseph Muscat, in Malta on Monday.
It is “a humanitarian problem that needs a European solution,” he said, calling on European states to “share the responsibilities”.
A refugee shipwreck on October 3 off Italy’s Lampedusa island left 366 people dead after their 20-metre boat caught fire, capsized and sank.
Just a few days later another heavily laden boat flipped over in rough seas off Malta, killing at least 36 of the Syrian refugees on board.
The leaders, meeting in preparation for the two-day summit of European leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, said they would take “a tough stand” on the issue.
“We will gauge the actual political willingness to change the status quo. I will not mince my words. If I see that it will simply be talk and no action, I will say so,” Muscat said.
He said Malta, Greece and Italy were not after “a quick-fix solution” but wanted to see the political willingness behind the promise of solidarity, “which Europe spoke so much about following the recent tragedies”.
With the United Nations refugee agency estimating at 32,000 the number of asylum seekers who landed in Italy and Malta so far this year, southern European countries have complained of having to shoulder an unfair burden as landing points for migrants seeking access to the EU.
“Greece is burdened with as many migrants as it has unemployed people,” Samaras said.
Muscat added that the Greek presidency of the EU next year will help place migration top of the agenda.
“There is no magic wand solution. We need a common policy,” he said.
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