Rishi Sunak discusses migration in Reykjavik speech
Rishi Sunak last night told European judges it was time to stop meddling in Britain’s plans to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda.
The Prime Minister said Strasbourg must start being “fair and transparent” after secret late night court rulings left deportation flights grounded.
And he vowed the government will “not rest until we stop the boats” as he met European leaders for a summit in Iceland.
Mr Sunak said the Rwanda deportation plan is “novel” and “ambitious” but does comply with the UK’s international obligations.
“We want to make sure the European court is always conducting itself in a way that is fair, that is effective, that is transparent,” he added.
The summit was the first event in a week of intense international diplomacy, with the Prime Minister today (WED) heading to Japan for the G7.
In Iceland last night, Mr Sunak insisted the UK has a “long track record” of leading reform linked to the European Court of Human Rights as he pushed for changes to rules that are holding back attempts to tackle illegal migration.
The Prime Minister has toughened up the Illegal Migration Bill currently before peers to give ministers the power to ignore interim “Rule 39” injunctions from the ECHR.
Mr Sunak wants the rule changed so there is greater accountability following behind closed doors rulings that go against UK government policy.
In talks with the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Siofra O’Leary, he called for changes to Rule 39 interim rulings. He also warned the Strasbourg chief that the need to tackle illegal migration is not just a UK problem.
“The Prime Minister and court president discussed the importance of protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law throughout Europe,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister stressed the need to ensure all of Europe is working together to uphold these values and tackle the challenges we face, including illegal migration.”
Mr Sunak made tackling the small boats crisis one of his top five priorities for government. But the number of illegal migrants making the Channel crossing this year is expected to top 50,000.
Net migration figures, meanwhile, are tipped to near one million and Downing Street has to refused to put a date or number on when either figure will fall or by how much.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s bill to stop illegal migration includes powers to send asylum seekers who arrive in Britain without permission can be sent home or to a third country such as Rwanda.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove admitted yesterday (TUES) that high migration levels has put pressure on housing and public services. He said Ms Braverman’s reforms, which include ignore some Strasbourg rulings, are the “right” approach.
Speaking at the National Conservatism conference in London, he said: “If we are looking at pressure on housing, you need to look at it in the round.
“Britain has always been a country that has benefited from people coming here fleeing persecution, but the numbers recently have been at a level where there’s an inevitable pressure on housing and on public services.
“You cannot ignore the pressure on housing that comes from migration as well and that is why I think the Prime Minister is absolutely right and Suella is right.
“It is a critical point of Brexit that we are able to say this is the level of migration for our country, we believe this is right. This is the level we set. These are the points that we’re looking for jobs and skills. Beyond that there is a limit.”
Mr Sunak raised the need for reform of Rule 39 and wider cooperation on tackling mass illegal migration on Europe’s borders in a series of one-to-one talks on the sidelines of the summit, including with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. But host nation Iceland’s foreign affairs minister Thordis Kolbrun Gylfadottir insisted the topic were not be top of the agenda at the gathering.
“The biggest focus is of course Ukraine, and then other issues such as AI and environment and other things. So this summit doesn’t have a big focus on migration in general,” she said.
“But I agree that that is an issue for Europe. And of course, that system has to develop with the challenges that we face.” She said there would not be a “real concrete outcome” on reforming the rule.
Mr Sunak told the summit that European communities and the world’s most vulnerable are “paying the price” for the failure to prevent unlawful migration.
The gathering was called following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Leaders from the 46 nations discussed how international allies can hold Russia to account for breaches of international law.
Mr Sunak signed the UK up to the Register of Damages to ensure the people of Ukraine are compensated for the losses incurred as a result of the war, No 10 said. The register is a mechanism to record and document evidence and claims of damage, loss or injury as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In talks with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Mr Sunak agreed to strengthen cooperation between the EU and UK with a new deal on how UK agencies and Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, work together on critical operations in the Channel.
Mr Sunak told the summit the “moral case” for action on illegal migration is “clear. We can’t just sit back and watch as criminal gangs profiteer on people’s misery. Illegal migration exploits the most vulnerable. It risks crowding out those with a genuine case for asylum.
“And it strains the trust that our citizens have not just in our domestic borders, but in the international system.” He urged nations to do “more to cooperate across borders” to end illegal migration and stop the boats
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