Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday sought to forge a first step, together with his counterparts in Malta and Italy, toward a Southern European alliance aimed at tackling the problem of illegal immigration in the region.
Samaras, who had talks with his counterparts Joseph Muscat and Enrico Letta in lightning visits to Malta and Italy, stressed that the problem of illegal immigration had become a major financial and social burden on Greece, which is already suffering from an economic crisis which has pushed unemployment to nightmarish levels.
“There are as many unemployed people in Greece as there are illegal immigrants,” he said. Samaras stressed that illegal immigration and human trafficking were “a humanitarian problem that needs a European solution” and called on other European Union member states to “share the responsibilities.”
As Italians paid homage to hundreds of migrants who drowned when their boat sank off the island of Lampedusa earlier this month, Letta said Italy would “stand firm” on the issue of illegal immigration at the next EU leaders’ summit later this week.
Muscat, for his part, said he wanted to see the political will behind the promise of solidarity “which Europe spoke so much about following the recent tragedies.”
Commenting late on Monday, sources close to Samaras said it was the first time the three states had described the problem of illegal immigration as “a real threat that could destabilize the nations.” They said Greece and Italy would pursue the matter further when they assume the EU’s rotating presidency, the former in the first half of 2014 and the latter in the second.