James Cleverly: Italian bid to stop migrant boats ‘mirrors’ UK effort

The Home Secretary has said work the Italians have done to stop migrant boats “mirrors” that of the UK, adding that the Government will be implementing some of their ideas after he “compared notes” with his Italian counterpart.

James Cleverly visited the small island of Lampedusa on Wednesday – Italy’s busiest migration hotspot last year.

The Home Office said around 110,000 migrants landed on the island in 2023, and evidence of recent small boat crossings could be seen in its harbour, with abandoned vessels and items of clothing scattered along the beaches.

Mr Cleverly said: “Our friends and colleagues in the Italian authorities are very much in the front line of the European fight against people smuggling, illegal migration.

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
Mr Cleverly climbs on to a Guardia di Finanza police boat in Lampedusa Port (Victoria Jones/PA)

“We’re only a few kilometres from the Tunisian border and the only way that we’re going to successfully stop the boats in the UK is by working with our international partners.

“Just this week we’ve seen another five fatalities in the Channel. In the Mediterranean they have dozens of fatalities in a year, sometimes hundreds.

“So we have a real moral imperative to stop the boats, to break the business model of the people smuggling gangs.

“The Italians are being innovative, they’re coming up with ideas, they’re working very hard.

“I’ve come here to compare notes with my Italian counterpart – and of course we’ll be implementing some of the ideas that we’ve been discussing, back in the UK.”

Mr Cleverly had a tour of a police vessel and was given an operational briefing on how agencies respond to mass landings during his brief stay on the island.

He spoke to the International Organisation for Migration, the International Red Cross and was shown the medical centre, family accommodation and the registration office at the site.

James Cleverly visit to Lampedusa
Home Secretary James Cleverly speaks with staff from the International Red Cross (Victoria Jones/PA)

Earlier in the week, the Home Secretary spent time in Rome – visiting the General Command of the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, and was shown the technology used by the Italian Coast Guard during complex search and rescue operations.

Mr Cleverly met interior minister Matteo Piantedosi in the Italian capital, with both parties promising to step up efforts and do more in source and transit countries.

Asked what ideas he could take back to the UK from his Italian counterpart, Mr Cleverly said: “Italy has a different set of circumstances to the UK.

“They’ve been working with north Africa, they’ve been working with countries in the western Balkans, they’ve come up with an arrangement with Albania which they’ll be operationalising.

“It’s not the same as our Rwanda scheme, but it is about having a credible deterrent, it’s about trying to stabilise the countries from which people are coming, working with countries that they are coming through, and also targeting the supply chains of the people smugglers – going after their money, going after their boats, going after their engines.

“So a lot of what they are doing in Italy mirrors what we’re doing in the UK to stop the boats.”