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The joint article by President Meloni and Prime Minister Sunak on the fight against human trafficking

Friday, 6 October 2023

The joint article by President of the Council of Ministers Giorgia Meloni and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak published in the Corriere della Sera and The Times newspapers.

Every week, thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean to Italy, entering Europe illegally. Many make their way north and cross the Channel to the UK. That’s why, 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.

This is 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. And it is a European crisis: as Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said on her visit to Lampedusa last month, it’s up to nation states to decide who comes to Europe, not the smugglers and traffickers.

We agree, and now is the time for action. Only by stopping the flow of illegal migrants can we restore the trust of the British and Italian people, not just in our domestic borders, but in European and international cooperation. Only by stopping the flow can we protect our two countries’ historic role as places of asylum and sanctuary. How can we take care of those who really need our help, when our resources are so overstretched?

Our determination to tackle this issue is already delivering results. It has sparked a change in the debate and created momentum across Europe. Countries across our continent are recognising that the current approach is not working. They’re realising that we need closer co-operation and tougher measures to crack down on the people smugglers.

That’s why, acting together with partners in Europe and the wider region, we are open to discussing agreements aimed at stopping people departing in the first place. Italy’s Rome Process on development and migration will be crucial in promoting partnerships across the Middle East and north Africa. We must smash the smuggling gangs, and we welcome Von der Leyen’s recent ten-point plan which included initiatives to do so. And we must strengthen our ability to co-ordinate enforcement operations and share intelligence. The UK's migration partnerships with countries like Albania and France are already delivering, and the UK is actively pursuing bilateral initiatives with key partners like Belgium, Turkey, and the EU border agency Frontex.

But we need to go much further - including at the summit of the European Political Community, under Spain’s leadership. We discussed how best to fight organised immigration crime with our colleagues and counterparts from across Europe. Criminal groups are deploying new tactics to avoid interception, so we need a step change in our response, particularly to smash their supply chains. And at a meeting, which we co-chaired, of key European countries affected by this issue and the European Commission, leaders committed to take action to support one another to tackle the challenges of illegal migration. 
We’re proud that Italy and the UK are leading on this together, because in this, and many other areas, our perspectives and our goals are the same. In fact, we are two of the closest friends in Europe today.

Together we have led the way on the war in Ukraine, as two of Kyiv’s  strongest backers on the world stage - providing unyielding  support. The Ukrainian people are showing extraordinary courage in defending the country they love against Russia’s illegal aggression and we will stay at their side as long as it takes. As Nato members we will also continue working together to strengthen European security from threats and instability, wherever they arise. The UK and Italy, together with Japan, recently launched an unprecedented partnership to build the next generation of combat air fighter jets – boosting our collective defence while creating jobs and growth for our economies.

Our joint leadership doesn’t end there. Later this autumn, we will meet again when the UK hosts the first Global AI Safety Summit. And into next year, with Italy’s presidency of the G7 and the UK hosting the next EPC Summit, we will place these critical issues – from illegal migration to the war in Ukraine to AI – at the top of the international agenda.

Together, the UK and Italy are 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.