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Sunak and Meloni vow to break people-smuggling gangs

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni on Friday vowed to do “whatever it takes” to break people smuggling gangs and cut irregular immigration across Europe.

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

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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.

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.

“This is a moral crisis, with criminal gangs exploiting and profiting from the misery of the vulnerable,” the pair wrote.

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

“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.

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.”

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.

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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.

The recent arrival of thousands of asylum-seekers arriving from Africa on the Italian island of Lampedusa spurred moves to get the revised policy in place.

But Sunak and Meloni said more action was needed.

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“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.

“We’re determined to do whatever it takes.”