ROME -- Five European Union countries on the Mediterranean called Saturday for an end of the EU's "voluntary solidarity" on migrants and for a better way of distributing the burden of care for them.
Two days of talks between Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Malta's Interior Ministers concluded in Venice. There were concerns that Russia's invasion might result in large numbers of African refugees flooding south Europe.
According to Nicos Nouris, the Cypriot Interior Minister, a strong and common EU policy on migration is necessary. Nouris stated that "Solidarity cannot be a slogan and it can't be devoid of substance."
The past EU policies that allowed member countries to offer to accept some of the hundreds, thousands of migrants who arrived in Italy, Greece, and other southern European countries were grossly inept.
Many EU countries did not respond. Others, even though they pledged to provide modest amounts of aid for the hundreds of thousands of migrants rescued by smugglers from unsuitable boats, did not follow through.
Nouris stated, "Solidarity cannot be voluntary in our minds."
He pointed out that, after years of Cyprus accepting migrants, 5% of the population of the eastern Mediterranean island nation is now made up of asylum-seekers.
The meeting did little to address the millions upon millions of Ukrainian refugees that have recently fled Ukraine for refuge in northern EU countries like Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
The urgent need to address how Europe manages large numbers of migrants is heightened by fears that the drought in Africa, surging food prices, and the impossibility of shipping Ukrainian grain from Ukraine to Somalia, Egypt, and other poor countries could make it impossible for Europe's citizens to feed their growing hunger.
The Sahel is an area of Africa located just below the Sahara desert. It is home to 18 million people who are suffering from severe hunger. Farmers in the region are experiencing their worst harvest season in over a decade.
Luciana Lamorgese, the Italian Interior Minister, cited the blockage of grain in Ukraine as another reason why the EU should develop an "adequate mechanism for distributing migrants among its members."
She also demanded more repatriation agreements for countries whose citizens seek a better life in Europe, but their asylum applications were rejected because they flee poverty and not war or persecution.
Italy has an effective repatriation deal with Tunisia but not with other African or Asian countries whose citizens use smugglers' vessels to reach southern European shores. Many migrants are still in Italy, even though they have failed to apply for asylum. They often take illegal jobs or begging.
The interior minister of Greece expressed support for legal migration routes.
Minister Notis Mitarachi stated to reporters that they cannot allow smugglers to decide who will live in Europe.
Follow all AP developments on global migration at https://apnews.com/migration.