Malta and four other Mediterranean countries have asked the EU to take care of the redistribution of asylum seekers and to manage directly repatriation of migrants to their country of origin.

The request was revealed by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera this morning that said that Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta wrote a letter to the European Commission acknowledging the obligation to ” protect human life.” The five governments called for “an effective migration and asylum policy based on a fair burden-sharing between all Member States, particularly in the face of mass or extraordinary migratory flows.”

The countries on Europe’s southern border said that “the entry into the EU of those who have landed in the territory of a Member State as a result of search and rescue operations cannot be considered in the same way as other irregular entries.”

“These arrivals are a consequence of the fulfilment of an obligation of international maritime law and not the result of inefficiencies in border controls. If the border states of the Mediterranean States are subject to a disproportionate migratory pressure, there should be an alternative safe haven.”

Malta together with Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus asked the EU to “introduce a compulsory and automatic relocation mechanism that involves the distribution among all the Member States of those who enter the territory of a Member State following search and rescue operations.”

The letter states that “only the pre-screening procedures that guarantee the necessary health and safety checks must remain the responsibility of the country of first entry.”

The five countries ask for collaboration on the distribution of asylum seekers, but also on the return to the home countries of those found ineligible for asylum. The five countries stress that “returns must be guaranteed through a common European return mechanism which pivots on enhanced cooperation with third countries in the field of returns and readmissions, integrating and respecting existing bilateral mechanisms.”

The appeal of the southern countries says that: “Preventing primary arrivals means avoiding secondary movements. European migration and asylum policies will only be effective if we are able to strengthen collaboration with third countries, in particular with the neighbouring states of North Africa and the Middle East in order to create long-lasting and balanced relationships.”