The interior ministers of the five Mediterranean countries on the front line of mass migration to Europe want their European Union partners to share the burden more equitably.
“We can no longer be punished for our geographical position,” Byron Camilleri, Malta’s minister of interior, national security and law enforcement, said, summing up his position and that of his colleagues from Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain, after their meeting in Athens concluded Saturday afternoon.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas joined the meeting at its start but left before its conclusion.
The five created the “MED 5” group last year in an effort to form a united front and influence the EU’s new migration and asylum pact.
Their demands are threefold: better cooperation with the so-called countries of origin in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, more EU members willing to take up refugees and a centralized European repatriation mechanism, under the Commission.
Southern European countries with extensive coastlines have borne the brunt of arriving asylum seekers hoping to enter the EU. Turkey appears to play an active role in pushing migrants towards the EU, in contravention of a 2016 agreement with the union.
Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris said most of the migrants arriving in his country cross from the “Green Line” separating the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island from the Greek-Cypriot administered south and called for Turkey to accept inspections by Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency, on its southern shoreline.
He added that Cyprus, for the past four years, has had the most asylum seekers per capita in the EU.