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Stopping illegal migration and securing our borders should be at the top of the agenda for European leaders, the Prime Minister will tell a gathering of the European Political Community (EPC)

in Chișinău, Moldova today (1 June 2023).

The EPC was established last year as a forum for leaders from across Europe to come together and address some of the biggest trans-national challenges. Addressing the meeting, the Prime Minister will point to the devastating humanitarian impact of illegal migration which is rising across the continent. He will emphasise the need for all countries to grip this problem with a lawful and compassionate approach.

Migrant crossings into the EU increased by 64 per cent last year and organised criminal gangs are using networks across Europe to commit cross-border crime and profit from human misery.

In recent weeks, the PM has agreed an unprecedented package of measures to stop illegal Channel crossings with France and new returns agreements with Albania. Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister also agreed with EU President Von der Leyen to develop a new working arrangement between UK agencies and Frontex – the EU’s border agency. This will include Frontex and UK agencies working together on critical operational and strategic challenges, including in the Channel.

Today, the Prime Minister will announce the start of negotiations on a new returns agreement with Moldova and confirm that a similar deal struck with Georgia has entered into force. These returns agreements allow us to return foreign nationals found to be in violation of immigration laws in the UK – reducing the incentive for people to come here illegally.

The Prime Minister will also announce a new partnership with Bulgaria to help them destroy the business model of organised criminal gangs who are deeply involved in illegal migration.

Bulgaria sits at the crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans migration routes – both of which have seen around a 40 per cent increase in illegal migration since 2021. The country is also becoming a key point of entry for the small boats and engines which are used by criminal gangs in illegal Channel crossings.

The UK will increase bilateral intelligence sharing with Bulgaria and work with them to increase their ability to detect and disrupt criminal gangs, building on previous work to disrupt the flow of illicit finance through organised crime networks.

The Prime Minister said:

Europe is facing unprecedented threats at our borders. From Putin’s utter contempt of other countries’ sovereignty to the rise in organised immigration crime across our continent.

We cannot address these problems without Europe’s governments and institutions working closely together. In every meeting, every summit, every international gathering like this, the security of our borders must be top of the agenda.

The UK will be at the heart of this international effort to stop the boats and defend our national security.

The UK will host the European Political Community in 2024 following the next summit, hosted by Spain in October. In Moldova today the Prime Minister will meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to discuss how the UK and Spain can keep up the momentum of international action on illegal migration at our respective EPC Summits.

The Prime Minister will also convene a roundtable discussion on security, alongside the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, where he will stress the need to deal with organised immigration crime and support countries like Ukraine and Moldova who are on the front line of Russian aggression.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moldova was already one of the poorest countries in Europe. It now hosts the largest per capita refugee population, having accepted thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war. Moldova is the subject of constant Russian hostility, from Russian troops illegally stationed in Transnistria to a Russian plot, uncovered earlier this year, to stage a coup in Moldova.

In March, the UK announced an extra £10 million to support reforms, including to Moldova’s energy sector, which will help them defend against the kind of economic and political manipulation we know Russia is capable of.

We have also provided £12.5 million to UN agencies to help support Ukrainian refugees in Moldova, and today the Prime Minister will announce a further £10.5 million to continue these efforts – particularly helping those women and children who have experienced the most horrific things imaginable over the last year.

Given the impact of Putin’s aggression beyond Ukraine, this work is integral to keeping our people safe and stopping the manipulation of our economy. Photo by HM Treasury and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Wikimedia commons.