Sunak Warns of Weaponized Illegal Immigration as UK and Italy Agree on Tunisia Plan


Uncontrolled illegal immigration will “overwhelm” countries and can be weaponized by enemies to “destabilise our societies,” Rishi Sunak said in Rome on Saturday the UK and Italy agreed to co-fund a plan addressing illegal immigration.

Downing Street said the prime minister has confirmed that the UK would “participate in the Rome Process, working with the Italian government on upstream projects on the migration route to help address the root causes of migration.

“In support of this, leaders committed to co-fund a project to promote and assist the voluntary return of migrants from Tunisia to their countries of origin,” a spokeswoman said.

“They also agreed to deepen UK-Italy co-operation on security and economic development across North Africa.”

Speaking of illegal immigration in a speech at Italy’s ruling party Brothers of Italy’s annual Atreju event, Mr. Sunak said arrivals in the Central Mediterranean have gone up by more than 50 percent this year, adding that it’s “unsustainable,” “unfair,” and “immoral.”

“Criminal gangs will find ever-cheaper ways to apply their evil trade. They will exploit our humanity, and they think nothing of putting people’s lives at risk when they put them in these boats at sea,” the prime minister said.

“And our enemies will also see that we are unable to deal with this, and then they will so increasingly use migration as a weapon, deliberately driving people to our shores to try to destabilise our societies.

Mr. Sunak said the number “will only grow” if the problem is not tackled and that it will “overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most.”

The prime minister also said that voters will “rightly” lose patience unless the governments deal with illegal migration.

“The cost of accommodating these people will anger our citizens, who won’t understand why their money should have to be spent on dealing with the consequences of this evil trade. It will destroy the public’s faith, not just in us as politicians but in our very systems of government. Why? Because it is fundamental, it is a fundamental tenet of sovereignty, that it is us who should decide who comes to our countries and not criminal gangs,” he said.

The prime minister is under pressure in the UK from both the left and the right over the government’s Rwanda Bill, which is designed to convince the Supreme Court that Rwanda is a safe country to send illegal immigrants to.

Labour opposes the Rwanda policy, calling it “gimmicks” and insisting it’s costly and unworkable, and some Conservative MPs, including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, believe the bill must block all routes of legal challenges under various international treaties for it to be effective. Ms. Braverman also went as far as saying the party would face “electoral oblivion” if it introduced “yet another bill destined to fail.”

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has resigned over the bill, saying it doesn’t go far enough to stop the merry-go-round of legal challenges.

Mr. Sunak has managed to get the bill through the second reading, but its future remains precarious.

If the 38 abstaining Conservative MPs voted no, the bill would still have been passed, but only by six votes.

Speaking for groups of Tory MPs who refused to support the bill, Mark Francois, chair of the European Research Group, said the MPs “reserve the right to vote against it at third reading” if they fail to amend the bill.

Mr. Sunak has insisted that the bill will end “the merry-go-round of legal challenges” that have blocked flights from taking off.

But he suggested on Saturday that international law needs reforming, echoing Ms. Braverman’s previous comments.