Giorgia Meloni and Rishi Sunak announce joint battle against migration

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Giorgia Meloni and Rishi Sunak announce joint battle against migration
Giorgia Meloni and Rishi Sunak have written a joint editorial in major UK and Italian newspapers pledging to crack down on irregular migration and human trafficking. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her British counterpart Rishi Sunak on Friday vowed to do "whatever it takes" to cut soaring levels of irregular immigration to Europe.


In a joint op-ed in The Times and the Corriere della Sera newspapers, the pair urged other European leaders to "act with the same sense of urgency".

Britain, which left the European Union in full in 2021, signed a raft of deals with several European countries at a summit in Spain on Thursday to work more closely to halt irregular immigration by sea.

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Both Sunak and Meloni are determined to push migrant boat arrivals via the Channel and the Mediterranean up the agenda - and were reportedly unhappy that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez refused to put the issue on the official agenda at the summit.

The pair described migration as "a moral crisis, with criminal gangs exploiting and profiting from the misery of the vulnerable."

"It is a humanitarian crisis, with shipwrecks of unsafe craft claiming over 2,000 lives already this year.

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"As the prime ministers of Italy and the UK, we are working together to stop the boats and we are calling on others to act with the same sense of urgency," they added.

Meloni has admitted she had hoped to do "better" on controlling irregular migration, which has surged since her party won historic elections a year ago on a strongly anti-immigrant platform.

Her government has since enacted a raft of hardline measures it said would deter people from making the perilous sea crossing, and announced plans to build more detention centres across Italy.


However, the number of people arriving on boats from North Africa has surged, with more than 130,000 recorded by the interior ministry so far this year – up from 70,000 in the same period of 2022.

After 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days earlier this month, Meloni demanded the European Union do more.

Sunak and Meloni said their joint focus on the issue was "already delivering results" with countries across Europe "recognising that the current approach is not working."

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EU states on Wednesday agreed to the final part of an overhaul for rules on how they handle asylum seekers and irregular migrants, setting up a push to make it law by elections next year.

Ambassadors from the 27 countries struck the deal in Brussels after Italy and Germany ironed out a last-minute row over charities rescuing migrants stranded in the Mediterranean.

Once implemented, the new Pact on Migration and Asylum would seek to relieve the pressure on so-called frontline countries such as Italy and Greece by relocating some arrivals to other EU states.

But Sunak and Meloni said more action was needed.

"Criminal groups are deploying new tactics to avoid interception, so we need a step change in our response, particularly to smash their supply chains," they wrote.


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