Albania has offered senior law enforcement support to the UK to provide authorities with intelligence and to help processing and removals.
Political reporter @fayebrownSky
Thursday 25 August 2022 08:09, UK
Albanian police could be brought to the UK to observe migrant arrivals and pass on intelligence in a bid to tackle Channel crossings.
The plan, part of a deal struck between Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Albanian government, may see officers from the southern European country taken to the Kent coast while migrants are processed.
The Home Office said Albania has pledged support by sending senior law enforcement officers to the UK to assist rapid removals of those who travel to the UK by small boats.
The Albanian officers will also provide authorities with information and support processing, the Home Office said.
Government officials believe around 60% of migrants making Channel crossings each day now are Albanian, although figures fluctuate.
Ms Patel and Bledi Cuci, Albania’s minister for interior affairs, also pledged to speed up removals of Albanians with no right to be in the UK from next week when they discussed the situation on Tuesday night.
Checks on migrants arriving by boat who are suspected of being Albanian will be fast-tracked, it is understood.
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Adverts in Albanian on Facebook and Instagram were launched on Wednesday to try to deter people from making the journey.
The campaign will target those in specific regions in northern France and Belgium and “who meet certain criteria, such as being away from home”, the Home Office said.
Officials are thought to be still thrashing out the finer details of the arrangement, so little further information is available on how it will work, or when it will start.
The Home Office says Albania is a “safe and prosperous country” and many nationals “are travelling through multiple countries to make the journey to the UK” before making “spurious asylum claims when they arrive”.
Mr Cuci called the Channel crossings “dangerous and illegal” and said he discussed with Ms Patel “mid-term solutions to provide better opportunities for young people” in Albania, as well as means of “legal migration that enables skilled professionals and labour access to the UK”.
Fewer than 1,000 Albanian offenders have been deported from the UK since a removals agreement was signed last year.
Ms Patel said: “Large numbers of Albanians are being sold lies by ruthless people smugglers and vicious organised crime gangs, leading them to take treacherous journeys in flimsy boats to the UK.
“This abuse of our immigration system and people risking their lives cannot go on.”
The Home Office added: “The Albanian government has also offered senior law enforcement support to the UK to provide UK authorities with vital intelligence and to support processing.”
Increase in Albanians making Channel crossings
The ISU union, which represents staff working for the Home Office’s law enforcement body, said its members had seen an increase in people from Albania making the Channel crossing in the last few months.
Lucy Moreton, from the ISU union, said the precise nationality breakdown of immigrants using this route “shifts from time to time” but “often reflects the nationalities of those seeking to facilitate the traffic”.
She said: “Members report the working hypothesis that the recent increases in Albanians is to replace those who have been arrested, imprisoned and/or deported as a result of increased police activity in the organised crime sphere.
“This is a hypothesis only, but does make sense.”
Some 1,295 migrants arrived in the UK on Monday in 27 boats – the highest daily total since current records began in 2018,
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The weather and the effective interception of boats at sea have been suggested as some of the reasons behind the high numbers of crossings.
According to figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), more than 22,800 people have arrived in the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies so far in 2022.
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To crack down on migration, Ms Patel signed what she described as a “world-first” agreement with Rwanda under which the east African nation will receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally” and therefore inadmissible under new immigration rules.
However, the controversial scheme has been met with a number of legal challenges, meaning deportations are yet to go ahead.
Several asylum seekers, the Public and Commercial Services union and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid are challenging the legality of the Home Office policy, with the next court hearings due in September and October.