UK and Italy aim to cut Mediterranean Sea migration

Home Secretary James Cleverly visits Lampedusa, a key entry point to the EU

An Italian Coast Guard boat carries migrants rescued at sea near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18.  Reuters
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UK Home Secretary James Cleverly is heading to Italy where he will discuss ideas to curtail the number of migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter Europe.

He will visit Lampedusa, a Mediterranean Sea island at the centre of the migrant surge, where thousands of people try to enter the EU from Northern Africa.

Mr Cleverly’s visit comes as the UK government attempts to get deportation flights to Rwanda off the ground.

Both countries want to reduce immigration numbers and last week Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signed three agreements with Tunisia.

Italian Interior Ministry data shows that more than 153,000 migrants reached Italy last year, compared to 105,140 in 2022 and 67,477 in 2021.

Mr Cleverly, who described Italy as one of the UK's “most crucial partners in tackling this shared challenge”, will discuss efforts to stem migration from North Africa with Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi on Tuesday.

“Tackling the global migration crisis takes global solutions," Mr Cleverly said.

"Italy are one of our most crucial partners in tackling this shared challenge and have been at the forefront of arrivals into Europe.

“Our countries have shown we are willing to challenge the status quo and use innovative solutions to tackle the issues, while ferociously going after the people-smuggling gangs.”

The UK and Italy are exploring co-operation on addressing the root causes of migration, the Home Office said.

Mr Cleverly will also visit the Italian coastguard headquarters in Rome to understand the operational challenges the country faces with migrant arrivals.

On Wednesday, he will become the first UK minister to visit Lampedusa, which is one of the busiest arrival points for migrants in Italy and the EU.

Mr Cleverly will also see how Italian authorities, working with agencies such as Frontex and international humanitarian groups, track migrant boats and save the lives of those making the journey.

Ms Meloni signed three agreements with Tunisia as part of a wider European plan to strengthen Tunisia's ability to limit migration to Europe.

It included a budget support package, a higher education and scientific research deal and a special line of credit for small and medium-sized companies.

The British government has called cutting migrant numbers one of its main priorities.

As part of that effort it wants to reduce the number of people reaching British shores on the dangerous English Channel crossing.

It also wants to deport some of the arriving migrants to Rwanda – a plan that was initially ruled illegal in British courts.

A revised version of the bill was on Monday struggling to make its way through the parliamentary hurdles.

Despite that, the UK government hopes to have the first flights in the air inside 12 weeks.

Updated: April 22, 2024, 11:01 PM