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PM to Tell European Summit: We Must Unite to Face Down the Threats at Our Borders

The Prime Minister will use a meeting of leaders from across Europe to drive coordinated action to protect the security of our whole continent on Tuesday (16 May 2023).

At the Council of Europe Summit in Iceland, he will meet counterparts from across the continent as well as the heads of institutions including the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.

He will use these meetings, as well as addresses to the whole Summit, to encourage leaders to ensure our governments and institutions are working in tandem to stop the humanitarian disaster caused by illegal migration.

The Council of Europe was established following the Second World War to uphold democracy and freedom throughout Europe – 46 countries are now members. This is only the fourth time in the institution’s history that leaders of the Council of Europe have gathered in this way, recognising the challenges we are facing cannot be solved without decisive and coordinated action with our neighbours.

The Prime Minister has made it one of his priorities to stop the boats and end the huge strain illegal migration places on the UK. We spend £5.5 million a day housing asylum seekers, with our overburdened system unable to prioritise the most vulnerable because of the overwhelming demands put on it by those who come here illegally and jump the queue.

Far from being a challenge unique to the UK, the scourge of illegal migration is placing unbearable pressures on countries throughout Europe, where we’ve seen a 50% rise in cases in the last year alone. While countries have opened their arms to people from Ukraine and elsewhere fleeing persecution, their systems have been put at risk by the rise in people traffickers and criminal gangs seeking to exploit the system. In parallel to the UK, France and Italy are pursuing legislation to address illegal migration.

At the Council of Europe, the Prime Minister will make the point that the measures individual countries are taking to address this crisis, such as the UK’s Stop the Boats Bill, must go hand in hand with international cooperation to establish a global asylum framework fit for purpose. We need a system that works both for the people of our countries and for the vulnerable people in desperate need of a functioning global asylum framework.

Since the Prime Minister took office, we have delivered successive, unprecedented small boats deals with France and have re-established the Calais Group of Northern European nations to disrupt traffickers all along the migration route. The Prime Minister has spent the past few months meeting leaders from across Europe, including the leaders of France, Italy and Albania, to drive forward progress.

This is alongside major domestic reforms such as our Stop the Boats Bill. This legislation is ambitious and novel, delivering the necessary reform of our immigration system while remaining party to the ECHR.

But at the same time, we need to ensure we have an international legal system which allows sovereign countries to take the domestic steps necessary to help those most in need. That includes reform to the ECHR’s Rule 39 process to ensure proper transparency, greater accountability and ensuring decisions can be reconsidered.

In his meeting with Court President Síofra O’Leary the Prime Minister will discuss the European Court of Human Right’s overall reform process, including its work on Rule 39.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Every single point on each route used by people traffickers to smuggle people across our continent represents another community struggling to deal with the human cost of this barbaric enterprise.

It is very clear that our current international system is not working, and our communities and the world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price.

We need to do more to cooperate across borders and across jurisdictions to end illegal migration and stop the boats.

I am clear that as an active European nation with a proud history helping those in need, the UK will be at the heart of this.

This Tuesday’s meeting follows President Zelenskyy’s visit to the UK on Monday, where he and the Prime Minister discussed the importance of sustaining the huge international effort in support of Ukraine’s defence. As Ukraine prepares to intensify its defensive military operations to hold and reclaim swathes of its territory taken by Russia during Putin’s full-scale invasion last year, the Prime Minister will use engagements with fellow leaders to bolster our collective response to Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The Council of Europe took quick and decisive action in response to Putin’s actions, suspending Russia’s membership of the body within a day of the full-scale invasion commencing – the first time a country has ever been expelled from the organisation.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Council of Europe, leaders – joined virtually by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy– will hold discussions focused on how we can continue to help Ukraine and hold Russia to account for their breaches of international law.

As part of this, the Prime Minister will sign the UK up to the Register of Damages to ensure the people of Ukraine are compensated for the losses incurred as a result of Putin’s war. This is a mechanism to record and document evidence and claims of damage, loss or injury as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The register is just one of a number of international initiatives set up to ensure accountability for the crimes inflicted in Ukraine, including the UK-led international referral to the International Criminal Court.

Source : Gov.uk