British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has joined forces with his Italian counterpart Georgia Meloni in demanding tougher action from the European Union in tackling the migration crisis.
The pair united to pen a rare joint article for the UK’s Times newspaper in which they urged European leaders to follow the UK and Italy’s lead in cracking down on illegal migration.
They suggested using measures such as those announced in the recent Rome Process looking at Italian partnerships across the Middle East and north Africa and tackling the root causes of illegal migration – including conflict, economic hardship and climate change – as well as Sunak’s bilateral initiatives with France, Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey.
“This is a moral crisis, with criminal gangs exploiting and profiting from the misery of the vulnerable,” the pair wrote.
The two leaders said criminal groups were deploying new tactics to avoid interception, “So we need a step change in our response, particularly to smash their supply chains.
“It is a humanitarian crisis, with shipwrecks of unsafe craft claiming over 2,000 lives already this year. And it is a European crisis: as Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on her visit to [the Italian island of] Lampedusa last month, it’s up to nation states to decide who comes to Europe, not the smugglers and traffickers.”
The article was published on October 5 as the third European Political Community summit concluded its first day of a two-day gathering in Granada, Spain, at which about 50 leaders from across Europe met to discuss a number of issues.
Migration was not on the agenda, reportedly infuriating both Sunak and Meloni who had pressed for host country Spain to ensure that the issue would dominate the agenda.
Instead, the two leaders – who both came to power in their respective nations in October 2023 – co-chaired a meeting attended by von der Leyen and officials from France, the Netherlands and Albania. They discussed proposals similar to the UK-style policies aimed at stopping migrant boats before they leave and detaining migrants at the EU’s external border.
The pair wrote that the UK and Italy were seeking serious, long-term solutions “to the greatest global challenges we face”.
“That’s why we will be putting the focus on illegal migration … and why we’re determined to do whatever it takes to stop the criminal gangs, to end this moral and humanitarian crisis once and for all and to restore legality in migration,” they added.
Meloni has another chance to press her case as EU leaders from the 27 Member States continue to meet in Granada on October 6.
Sunak is expected to announce a breakthrough with EU border agency Frontex next week. That is set to include intelligence sharing that tracks migrants step by step as they move across Europe before attempting to cross The Channel to the UK.