Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Rishi Sunak – Europe must join forces against people smuggling gangs [October 2023]

The press release issued by 10 Downing Street on 5 October 2023.

  • UK to lead discussions on migration, AI and support to Ukraine at European Political Community summit today [Thurs]
  • Prime Minister expected to agree new initiatives to tackle organised crime with Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia and chair meeting on migration with Italian PM Meloni
  • Rishi Sunak will also galvanise continued support for Ukraine and announce new humanitarian aid at the meeting in Spain

The Prime Minister will urge leaders to join forces to protect Europe’s borders from criminal gangs and face down Russian aggression at the European Political Community [EPC] meeting in Granada, Spain today [Thursday 5th October].

Co-chairing a small group meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Meloni on illegal migration and organised crime, the Prime Minister is expected to raise the need for more coordinated action to address rising levels of illegal migration to Europe.

Signalling the UK’s intention to step up cooperation with key European countries on this issue, he will announce new bilateral initiatives with Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia to increase intelligence sharing and operational cooperation.

As new intelligence released today reveals Russia may use sea mines to target civilian shipping on the vital Black Sea route, the Prime Minister will also discuss support for Ukraine at the EPC.

Talks will focus on ongoing work among European partners to provide air defence, fighter jets and long-range fires to Ukraine, as well as efforts to end Putin’s blockade of vital Black Sea grain shipments – with evidence suggesting Russian attacks in the last few months destroyed enough grain to feed more than one million people for a year. The Prime Minister will confirm new allocations of UK humanitarian aid to help Ukrainians survive this second winter of war.

Following the opening plenary session, the Prime Minister will attend a roundtable session on Artificial Intelligence, where he will encourage European states to seize the opportunities of AI and work together to adopt a safe and responsible regulatory approach to this exciting technology.

Speaking ahead of the European Political Community summit, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Levels of illegal migration to mainland Europe are the highest they have been in nearly a decade. With thousands of people dying at sea, propelled by people smugglers, the situation is both immoral and unsustainable. We cannot allow criminal gangs to decide who comes to Europe’s shores.

When it comes to facing down the threat from Putin, confronting the risks and opportunities of AI or dealing with illegal migration, there is strength in unity.

These issues transcend national borders and require creative Europe-wide solutions – that is what I will be discussing with my fellow leaders at the European Political Community summit in Spain today.

New aid allocations for Ukraine announced today include £34 million for the UN and charities providing shelter and warm winter clothing and £10 million for household electricity, following Russian attacks on Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure. The UK’s fourth loan guarantee of $500 million has been disbursed via the World Bank to ensure the Government of Ukraine can provide life-saving winter support payments to three million households.

In meetings with a range of leaders the Prime Minister will also underline the UK’s commitment to wider European security, including in responding to the situation in Kosovo and in Nagorno-Karabakh. The UK has this week deployed 600 UK troops to reinforce NATO’s mission in Kosovo, and the PM is expected to press Serbia to ensure those behind recent attacks on Kosovan police officers face justice.

As close partners, the UK and Italy are committed to using forums like the EPC to drive regional and global solutions to the shared challenge of illegal migration and dangerous small boats crossing. That includes helping countries to address the root causes of migration, cracking down on people smuggling gangs and strengthening national borders.

The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Meloni will convene a small-group meeting on the sidelines of the EPC with key European partners to reaffirm our collective commitment to tackling this issue and discuss joint action.

As part of that shared European effort, the PM will confirm new initiatives with Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia today.

The UK and Belgium will agree a deal to disrupt organised immigration crime and clandestine entry to the UK. It will see a commitment to increase our bilateral exchange of expertise and the deployment of new advanced detection technology to identify and disrupt people smuggling through Belgium and onwards to the UK.

And the Prime Minister will agree a new joint declaration with Serbia on efforts to fight organised immigration crime together, noting Serbia’s role as a key transit country on the Western Balkans migration route. It will enhance cooperation on prosecuting and disrupting criminal networks, intelligence sharing and operational cooperation on border management.

A new agreement with Bulgaria will operationalise the partnership agreed by the Prime Minister at the EPC meeting in Moldova in June, enabling an expansion of joint action to disrupt criminal networks, sharing of information and practical support.

The UK will continue to drive joint work with European partners on migration, Ukraine and AI through the upcoming AI Safety and JEF Summits.