Sunak and Austrian leader agree 'Rwanda style model' needed to tackle illegal migration in Europe

Rishi Sunak said he and Austria's leader are "deepening co-operation" on illegal migration as they agreed schemes like the Rwanda plan are needed to tackle the issue in Europe.

The prime minister met Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna on Tuesday, following an announcement that the UK government will give an extra £25m to the National Crime Agency to help tackle people smuggling gangs.

However, the main thrust of the trip was to promote the use of third country deportation schemes - such as the government's Rwanda plan.

Following a "warm meeting" with Mr Nehammer, Mr Sunak said the pair "see eye-to-eye on many of the big challenges before us", including Ukraine and the Middle East.

He said they discussed illegal migration, which "has become truly one of the defining issues of our time".

The prime minister congratulated his Austrian counterpart on his leadership on illegal migration "because he's been right on this issue for a long time, and has led the charge in Europe".

They committed to "deepening our cooperation to end this vile trade" and said there is a need to "think creatively... like the UK's pioneering Rwanda scheme".

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The pair met after 15 EU countries, including Austria, signed a letter calling on the European Commission to tighten migration policy and to look at third country schemes.

"It's increasingly clear that many other countries now agree that that is the approach that is required - bold, novel, looking at safe country partnerships," Mr Sunak said.

Mr Nehammer said having safe asylum proceedings in safe third countries could "save human lives" by eradicating smuggling routes, and it is "something we need to put on the EU's agenda as well".

The number of people who have crossed the Channel in small boats to the UK this year has reached nearly 10,000.

The government has now passed its legislation to deport asylum seekers to the African nation, but flights are not expected to start taking off until early July - and more legal challenges could also be launched.

Labour has branded the scheme an "expensive gimmick" and promised to scrap it if the party wins the next general election.

However, Home Secretary James Cleverly said the government was still "determined to operationalise Rwanda as part of the measures to protect our borders".

Last year, the UK and Austria signed a "migration and security agreement" to work more closely on the issue, with the country keen to create its own third country scheme to address rising crossings in the Mediterranean.

However, unlike the UK's Rwanda scheme, asylum seekers would be allowed to return to Austria if their applications were successful.