Rishi Sunak to rally support for united approach to stamping out illegal migration

UK Prime Minister has made 'stopping the boats' a central pledge of his leadership

A group of migrants arrive on the beach in Dungeness, Kent, after crossing the Channel in a small boat. PA
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Rishi Sunak will lobby world leaders at the Council of Europe summit in Iceland on the need for nations to work in lockstep to “stop the humanitarian disaster caused by illegal migration”.

The UK Prime Minister will use the gathering in Reykjavik to argue the security of the entire continent is at risk if unification is not achieved.

He will emphasise the need for a cohesive approach to stamp out illegal migration, as he comes under increasing pressure from MPs in his own party to meet his pledge to “stop the boats”.

The two-day summit will open on Tuesday, bringing together heads of state and representatives from the council’s 46 member states.

Heads of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights will be among those present.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister would use meetings and a speech to the conference “to encourage leaders to ensure our governments and institutions are working in tandem to stop the humanitarian disaster caused by illegal migration”.

Mr Sunak will emphasise that his government’s efforts to stop people from crossing the Channel in small boats must be supported by international co-operation to establish a new global asylum framework.

The system must balance the needs of Europe with the vulnerable people looking to claim asylum, Downing Street said.

Before his trip to Iceland, Mr Sunak said communities across Europe are struggling to deal with the consequences of “barbaric” human trafficking.

“It is very clear that our current international system is not working, and our communities and the world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price,” Mr Sunak said.

“We need to do more to co-operate across borders and across jurisdictions to end illegal migration and stop the boats.

“I am clear that as an active European nation with a proud history helping those in need, the UK will be at the heart of this.”

The Prime Minister will meet Siofra O’Leary, president of the European Court of Human Rights, to discuss the institution’s reform process, including its work on Rule 39.

The rule allows a judge to impose an injunction pending further legal proceedings to decide on the merits of a case.

The court last June imposed an injunction that prevented asylum seekers from being deported from Britain to Rwanda.

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman in March suggested a possible about-turn by the court was on the cards.

She said the “opaque Strasbourg process” under a Rule 39 order was “deeply flawed”.

“I’ve been encouraged by the government’s constructive recent discussions with Strasbourg, including around possible reforms to Rule 39 procedures, which is obviously something we’d like to see,” she said.

Updated: May 16, 2023, 9:41 AM