Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Security Minister visits Iraq to strengthen security partnership [August 2023]

The press release issued by the Home Office on 23 August 2023.

Tom Tugendhat visits Iraq and Kurdistan region for talks on serious and organised crime, narcotics and terrorism.

The Security Minister Tom Tugendhat visited Iraq from 21 to 23 August to strengthen the security of the UK, Iraq and the wider region, and build on the existing relationship between our 2 countries.

During his time in Baghdad, the minister met with Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Fuad Hussein, and Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdul-Amir Al-Shammeri.

He also travelled to Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, where he was welcomed by the region’s President Nechirvan Barzani, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Qubad Talabani, and the Minister of Interior, Mr Rebar Ahmed.

During his visit, the minister made progress on negotiating a new agreement with the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government that will strengthen our efforts to tackle serious organised crime, including organised immigration crime, human trafficking and narcotics. Both nations are preparing to sign a statement of intent to tackle shared organised crime threats in the coming weeks.

In his meetings, Tom Tugendhat also reinforced the UK’s strong relationship with Iraq on counter-terrorism cooperation. He met Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service and discussed with Iraq’s national security advisor ways to enable greater sharing of information between countries. As a result, both nations are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding to increase information sharing to enhance our counter-terrorism cooperation.

The Security Minister also promoted the UK’s continued support to mitigate the threat from Daesh, to ensure it can never again threaten the security of the UK and Iraq – including by pushing for implementation of the Yazidi Survivors Law, which provides compensation for the acts of genocide they suffered under Daesh.

He also delivered a speech on the growing regional narcotics trade, offering solidarity and partnership with Iraq and regional allies against the destabilising impact that drugs are having and denouncing the Syrian regime for its role in the Captagon trade.

In addition, he convened with non-governmental organisations, independent journalists, and the UN to discuss modern slavery and human trafficking of women and girls, and serious and organised crime and its links to illegal migration.

During his trip, the minister learned about the security risk posed by climate change in Iraq – as the fifth worst affected country according to the UN, where droughts and water shortages are becoming more severe – decimating the agricultural sector in some regions and forcing migration.

In conversations with the Iraqi political leadership, the minister also explored how the UK and Iraq can work together to better understand and address the drivers of irregular migration, to disrupt organised crime groups trafficking vulnerable people.

Speaking on the final day of his visit, the Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said:

It’s great to be back in Iraq for the first time in 20 years, and to see first-hand how this country has changed.

Iraq is a key partner in our fight against terrorism, as well as serious and organised crime. The Iraqi security forces are on the front lines of our fight against ISIS. Many of the criminal gangs who operate small boat crossings in the English Channel operate out of Iraq, which is why I’m working to with our partners in Baghdad to bring them to justice.

I’m pleased that we will boosting our joint efforts to crack down on human trafficking, narcotics and money laundering, and strengthening our important partnership in the fight against terror.