The two leaders, who have both made fighting illegal immigration a priority for their respective governments, have announced they will work together on cutting back on migrant arrivals in Europe.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her British counterpart Rishi Sunak have agreed to join forces to combat illegal immigration in their countries, vowing to break people-smuggling gangs facilitating arrivals.
Talking to reporters from both countries during a meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) in Granada, Spain, the two leaders spoke of a “moral crisis” in Europe represented by the issue of illegal immigration.
“We are working together to stop the boats [of migrants] and we call on others to act with the same sense of urgency,” the two leaders, who have both made the issue of illegal immigration one of their respective governments’ priorities, said in an article published on the British newspaper The Times and the Italian Corriere della Sera.
The two insisted that the issue of immigration is “a moral crisis” in Europe and that those smuggling people into the continent are responsible for committing a “humanitarian crime.”
According to Meloni and Sunak, it should be up to European countries “to decide who comes to Europe, and not to smugglers and traffickers”. Fixing the issue is about restoring the “confidence” of both Italian and British people, the two prime ministers said, “not only in our internal borders, but also in international and European cooperation.”
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Meloni wrote that the two leaders were “determined to do anything necessary to stop criminal gangs” facilitating migrant arrivals to Europe.
In a post on X, Sunak wrote that “it’s the British people who should decide who comes to the UK - not criminal gangs”.
The cooperation and alignment of the two countries on illegal immigration is not surprising considering Meloni’s and Sunak’s respective governments have both pushed for a tough approach on the issue.
Both countries have tried to expedit the deportation of illegal immigrants to third countries they deemed “safe” despite an international outcry saying those nations are actually not safe at all for vulnerable people to be sent to.
It’s also interesting that Meloni, who has been looking for help tackling a surging number of arrivals to Italy’s shores this year - double what the country experienced the year before - has found support in Sunak, outside of the EU, after arguing with both Germany and France on the issue.
As Italy was facing a record number of arrivals in Lampedusa last month, with about 7,000 people on the tiny island whose facility can only host a few hundreds, both France and Germany refused to take on more migrants from Lampedusa.
This in turn generated more unhappiness in Italy, where a victim narrative saying that Italy is being “left alone” by other EU countries to deal with immigration circulates widely and is promoted by politicians like far-right Matteo Salvini, the minister of infrastructure and transport.