European countries working on 'radical' plans to tackle illegal migration, says Sunak

Prime Minister said other nations were looking at 'similar solutions' to those Britain has been pursuing

A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the Channel in a small boat. PA
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Some European countries are looking to implement their own “radical” plans to tackle illegal migration, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

Countries were looking at "similar solutions" to those Britain has been pursuing, he said, including its deal with Rwanda, which is currently held up in the courts.

His comments came as Austria signalled it is keen to progress its own Rwanda-style deal of sending migrants arriving through unauthorised routes back to their home nation or a third country, with Denmark also looking to adopt tougher border measures.

"I said Britain would be tough but fair, and where Britain leads others will follow," the Conservative leader said.

"We have been willing to take bold and radical action to tackle this problem.

"I said that other countries would look at similar solutions, and you can start to see that they are with the news from Austria this week, and more broadly across Europe.

"You can just see this issue growing and growing in salience, and I think that we have been out in front leading the conversation on this, the need to look at this differently and look at radical solutions. We have a track record on this."

Mr Sunak said he and Italian premier Giorgia Meloni met informally on Friday in New Delhi for the G20 summit to discuss efforts to co-ordinate an international response to migration.

Hard-right leader Ms Meloni and Mr Sunak have become firm allies, having united over their stance of cutting irregular immigration into their countries.

"I always talk to other leaders about it, and in fact, I did yesterday (Friday)," he told reporters during a briefing on Saturday at his hotel in the Indian capital.

"I sat down and had a meeting, a drink with Giorgia, the prime minister of Italy.

"This is obviously something that she and I have talked about a lot and we talked again about how we can work closer together, which we're already doing.

"Italy are chairing the G7 next year, we're hosting the European Political Community summit next year.

"We were just talking about those moments, those opportunities to bring people together to talk about this issue.

"She and I have a view together, both of us, that this is an important topic that needs us to work together. That won't be the last of these conversations that I have."

The UK’s Rwanda plan has been ruled unlawful and the government has appealed to the Supreme Court to get approval so it can attempt to fulfil Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats”, one of his five key pledges.

Under the new Illegal Migration Act, anyone who arrives in the UK by irregular means, such as on a small boat, is automatically detained and unable to claim asylum.

Currently, a record 175,000 people are waiting in the UK for a decision on an asylum claim, up 44 per cent since June 2022. So far this year, more than 19,400 have crossed the Channel on small boats.

That could leave the UK with a “permanent backlog” of migrants, which could cost the UK £6.4 billion ($8.14 billion) a year in accommodation costs.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 9:27 AM