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UK and Moldova kick off talks on migrant returns deal as Sunak feels the heat

LONDON — The U.K. will open talks with Moldova on a new deal to return migrants to the Eastern European country, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces domestic pressure to cut migration.

Sunak will start negotiations on a returns agreement at the second summit of the European Political Community, taking place in Chișinău, Moldova, Thursday.

The U.K. prime minister has made tackling irregular migration one of his main priorities, and faces calls from within his own Conservative Party to reduce overall migrant numbers. Figures published last week show that migration added 606,000 people to the U.K.’s population in 2022 — the highest number on record.

Sunak will also announce that a similar deal with Georgia has come into force, and that the U.K. is sharing intelligence with Bulgaria to help its law enforcement officials chase gangs smuggling people from the Western Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean into the rest of Europe.

“We cannot address these problems without Europe’s governments and institutions working closely together,” he said in an eve-of-summit statement released by No.10 Downing Street Wednesday night. “In every meeting, every summit, every international gathering like this, the security of our borders must be top of the agenda.”

Sunak also plans to meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, whose country is hosting the third EPC summit in October — just before the U.K. takes it over — to discuss how to keep irregular migration high on the EPC agenda.

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