Med nations urge EU partners to step up migration fight

Seven European Mediterranean nations on Wednesday urged the EU to boost its financial support for member states bearing the brunt of the influx of African migrants in search of a better life.

Migratory pressure pushing across the Mediterranean "is far from diminishing, it is increasing", said foreign ministers from Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain after an informal meeting in the Spanish port of Alicante.

Tragic scenes of African migrants storming border fences in Spain or drowning off the coast of Italy have pushed the issue of migration from Africa to top of the political agenda in several southern EU member states.

"Intra-EU solidarity with southern member states affected by the massive and disorderly arrival of migration flows, despite their substantial efforts to control their external borders, should include sufficient and effective financial support from the EU," the ministers said in a joint statement.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margalo said national efforts to prevent Africans from trying to reach Europe illegally "however significant are not sufficient".

The effort has to involve "not only Mediterranean nations but all European Union nations".

Immigration charities estimate between 17,000 and 20,000 migrants have died at sea while trying to reach Europe in the past 20 years, but fighting the phenomenon from both Africa and Europe has proved difficult.

In one of the worst ever Mediterranean migrant tragedies, a boat overloaded with refugees, mostly from strife-torn Somalia and Eritrea, caught fire and capsized last October off the island of Lampedusa.

Some 366 people lost their lives, prompting calls for an overhaul of European migration and asylum policies.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Rui Machete said more aid also had to be provided to help improve living standards in African nations and reduce the poverty at home that drives people to come to Europe.

"We are conscious that economic aid to the countries of origin of the illegal migrants as well as to the transmit nations is key to reduce the number of illegal migrants," he said.