Malta summit urges EU to stop migration at source

The leaders of nine Mediterranean and southern European countries called Friday for a “significant increase” in the EU’s efforts to tackle the thorny issue of migration at its roots, in origin and transit countries.

Italian far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said that front-line countries were struggling to deal with arrivals now, but without “structural” solutions from the bloc, “everyone will be overwhelmed”.

A sharp rise in migrants landing on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa earlier this month has reignited tensions within the bloc and provided impetus to work for a fresh common strategy.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for “a united European response”, urging “solidarity with Italy, as we must show solidarity with all the countries of first entry”.

The so-called “Med 9” met in Malta the day after EU interior ministers in Brussels finally made headway on new rules for how the bloc handles asylum seekers and illegal immigration.

The revamped Pact on Migration and Asylum will seek to relieve pressure on frontline countries by relocating some arrivals to other EU states and the leaders in Malta urged its swift adoption.

But Meloni, whose hard-right government was elected a year ago on an anti-migrant ticket, said the redistribution of arriving migrants was not enough — a message reiterated in the summit’s joint statement.

Tackling illegal migration calls for “a sustained and holistic European response”, the leaders of Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia and a representative of Spain said.

“We recall the need for a significant increase in the EU’s efforts on the external dimension front, with a renewed approach to effectively reduce primary movements and prevent departures,” it said.

“Ultimately”, Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela said, “the issue needs to be tackled at source”.

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