British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Downing Street in London, Britain April 27, 2023. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska
Meloni, who heads a right-wing government in Rome, was talking to reporters at the Italian embassy in London after a two-day visit to the British capital during which she met Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“I think that talking about deportation or suggesting that Rwanda would be a country that does not respect rights and would be an inadequate or unworthy nation is a racist way of interpreting things,” she said.
The British government is hoping to send thousands of migrants more than 4,000 miles away to the East African country as part of a 120 million pound ($150 million) deal.
More than 45,000 migrants arrived in small boats on the English south coast in 2022, and Sunak has made it a priority to deter asylum seekers crossing the English Channel from France in small boats.
This week lawyers for a group of asylum seekers challenged the British government’s plan before the Court of Appeal in London, claiming it is unlawful because Rwanda is not a safe country.
Rome is also facing growing pressure from migrants crossing the Mediterranean, with a surge in arrivals compared to 2022. Almost 41,000 people have landed in Italy so far in 2023, against around 10,200 in the same period last year.
Following a deadly shipwreck in southern Italy in February, Meloni called on fellow European Union leaders to do more to halt illegal immigration and prevent further tragedies at sea.
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