VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Interior ministers from European Union nations experiencing pressure from unauthorized migration asked Friday for more action to strengthen and protect the bloc’s external borders.
Ministers from countries that included Greece, Poland, Italy, Austria and France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, participated in a border security security conference in Lithuania’s capital along with European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
They said that reinforcing the EU’s borders and cracking down on people smugglers would protect EU citizens and the lives of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa who undertake hazardous journeys to reach Europe.
“We must protect our borders from aggression, and we need to protect our people,” Johansson told the conference participants.
Doing that, she said, requires stopping people fleeing poverty and conflicts in their home countries from starting out on migration routes.
“We can’t wait until we have desperate migrants at our borders. We need to act sooner,” Johansson said, stressing that preventative actions must respect the rights of individuals to seek asylum.
Poland’s interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski, call for amendments to EU migration laws. Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania saw migrants trying to cross illegally into the EU from Belarus.
The EU has accused the authoritarian president of Belarus of encouraging the unusual activity in retaliation for sanctions the bloc imposed. At least 12 people died while seeking the chance to enter Europe.
Follow AP’s migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
The Associated Press