Rising irregular migration continues to pose a challenge at Europe’s borders, a subject garnering increasing attention from the continent’s leaders. Rishi Sunak, at a special summit of European luminaries held in Spain, asserted that the current state of affairs, marked by swelling migrant numbers, is “immoral and unsustainable.” He implored a Europe-wide approach towards crafting innovative solutions, which would concentrate on combating human smuggling and augmenting border security.
Serving as the co-chair at this gathering of leaders, Sunak is joined by Georgia Meloni, the Prime Minister of Italy. Italy has been a landing point for more than 100,000 migrants in the current year alone, outnumbering the UK by a ratio of five to one. During this meeting, Sunak plans to arrange agreements with the leaders of Belgium, Bulgaria, and Serbia, with a focus on crippling criminal enterprises through an increase in shared intelligence and operational collaboration.
This gathering, however, is not limited to the European Union member nations. The emerging European Political Community invites leaders from EU and non-EU regions alike. Despite a primary focus on addressing the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the forum offers an opportunity to discuss other key issues in a less formal setting.
Although Sunak voiced opposition to stronger alignment with the EU during his party conference speech, he seems more open to concerted European efforts concerning immigration, counting it among his chief electoral priorities.
Sunak’s ultimate goal rests in halting the flow of small migrant-filled boats crossing the English Channel. Though the numbers have dwindled since the previous year, the total arrivals this year already exceed 20,000. Concerns do however remain about shared priorities and whether collective action is a possibility, given EU countries’ past struggles to agree on burden-sharing.
Hopes appear to be leaning towards reform, as a recent agreement among EU members sets out to modify internal asylum rules. This change will ease the burden on countries like Italy and Greece, providing support from the EU block during irregular migration surges. Further talks on formulating new legal migration methods continue among some member nations, including Spain.
Nevertheless, Sunak remains determined to tackle the root cause – criminal people smugglers. This would demand a coordinated action plan that includes both EU and non-EU countries.
In a statement made public by Downing Street, Mr. Sunak commented on the mounting crisis, “Illegal migration to mainland Europe has reached its highest point in nearly ten years. Thousands of lives are at risk amid the sea voyages plotted by smuggling gangs. This situation, both immoral and unsustainable demands that we stand against these criminal entities.”
He further emphasized that unity would be the key in resolving these complexities. Besides tackling migration issues, he also is expected to discuss additional humanitarian aid for Ukraine and stimulate its grain exports.
British intelligence reports suggest a potential threat from Russia in undermining Ukraine’s grain exports. These reports hint at a planned stratagem by Russia to plant sea mines outside Ukrainian ports to deter civilian shipping passing through the Black Sea.