June 13, 2024 12:44 pm

The leaders of Italy, the UK and Albania meet in Rome to hold talks on migration

The leaders of Italy and the U.K. agreed on Saturday to tackle irregular migration to Europe, pledging to intensify cooperation in the fight against human trafficking.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who held talks in Rome, were also joined by Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, who is seen as a key ally in the efforts to manage migrant arrivals from North Africa to European shores.

Meloni’s office said in a statement after the meeting that the talks with Sunak “focused primarily on the joint work in the field of migration within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in London” in April.

The two leaders reportedly agreed to co-fund a first Italian-British project of assisted voluntary repatriations to countries of origin drawn up by the International Organization for Migration for migrants stranded in Tunisia.

Meloni, Sunak and Rama agreed on the need to manage irregular migration “in an increasingly structured manner, further intensifying cooperation between the three countries to fight human trafficking,” the statement said.

The talks also touched on other issues, including Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and “the crisis in the Middle East,” it added.

In recent months, Sunak has developed a strong partnership with Meloni, and has sought to win support from other European leaders to help crack down on migration, with both Albania and Italy seen as crucial partners.

After meeting Meloni, Sunak also made an appearance at a political gathering organized by her Brothers of Italy party, along with other international guests including Rama and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

In his speech at the event, Sunak warned that failing to tackle the issue of irregular migration would end up “destroying the public’s faith” in politicians and governments.

“If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow,” he said. “It will overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most.”

Sunak also stressed that if that “requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that.”

A contentious migration deal recently struck between the Italian and Albanian governments has been partly inspired by the U.K. government’s long-running attempts to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

The agreement between Rome and Tirana involves migrants’ reception and processing in the Adriatic country, but the Albanian constitutional court has suspended its ratification in parliament pending a decision on challenges to the plan.

Rama said on Saturday that he is “confident” in the court’s assessment of the deal, because it “has nothing unconstitutional” and that he expects a decision to be made “much sooner” than the March deadline.

In early November, Rama and Meloni signed an initial agreement to set up two centers in Albania to process the asylum applications of migrants and refugees who have been rescued at sea by the Italian navy, coast guard and police vessels.

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