Spain puts EU justice, interior ministers in hot seat to stem migrant flow from Africa

Spain launched a fresh appeal Thursday for the European Union to take rapid action to help it and other Mediterranean members of the EU stem the flow of illegal migrants from Africa.

Spain's Justice Minister, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, said he would urge the 25-member bloc's justice and interior ministers, meeting here for two days of informal talks, to boost joint efforts.

"Spain is determined," Lopez Aguilar told reporters before the morning meeting. "We are not going to stop until the whole of the European Union provides for an answer, because an answer is needed. ... A European response at large scale is needed."

Other southern EU nations, including Italy, Greece and Malta, are backing Madrid's call for more money and for the EU's new external borders agency, Frontex, to coordinate more long-term patrols of the Mediterranean Sea and off Africa's Atlantic coast.

Lopez Aguilar also appealed to other EU governments to do more to increase aid to Africa's poorest nations, from where most of the illegal migrants come, seeking a better life in Europe.

More than 23,000 migrants have made dangerous ocean crossings from northwest Africa to Spain's Canary Islands so far this year, leading to the drowning of many and a near-collapse of the system of holding facilities on the islands, reports AP.

Madrid has also complained that a hastily arranged EU operation launched in August, run by Frontex, to contribute planes and boats to help patrol African waters and prevent departures has never really got off the ground, with very few EU members providing material.

Only a few EU states Finland and Italy have each sent one plane; Portugal and Italy have sent boats have come to help Spain. Madrid is providing additional vessels and helicopters.

Several EU ministers were critical, however, of Spain's handling of illegal migrants.