Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Albanian people smugglers promise migrants ‘fast cars and easy money’

Robert Jenrick on the removal of illegal Albanian migrants

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More than 10,000 Albanians illegally entered Britain by crossing the English Channel in small boats to seek asylum last year. They make up nearly a fourth of the record more than 45,000 people who made the dangerous journey across the busy waterway to the UK.

Last week, a special flight brought back dozens of Albanians deported from Britain.

After receiving only a few dozen Albanian asylum-seekers in 2020, British officials have said the large increase in 2022 may be due to increased organisation by Albanian criminals operating as migrant smugglers from northern France.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and others have insisted that Albania is a “fundamentally safe country” and that most asylum claims from its citizens are unfounded.

The country in the Western Balkans has launched full membership negotiations with the European Union.

According to an investigation by Hayley Mortimer, journalist for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service, conducted in Albania in November, smugglers use social media to convince people to migrate to the UK with the promise of “easy money” and a luxurious life.

She wrote: “It’s hard to overplay the role of social media in Albania, with accounts spreading unrealistic scenes of glamour, fast cars and easy money in the UK. People smugglers also use slick marketing on TikTok, even offering cut-price Black Friday deals for a space on a small boat.

“The price to travel to the UK by small boat is currently much cheaper than in the back of a lorry, which accounts for some of the influx. But there are concerns that some teenagers still end up in debt to the smugglers and have to work in cannabis farms to pay it off.”

Albania on Monday handed a verbal note to the British ambassador to Tirana to protest what it called a “verbal lynching” by a UK official in comments about Albanian immigrants in the country.

The paper expressed “concern on the last statement of the Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick with discriminatory language about Albanians.”

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Over the weekend Jenrick visited a facility for migrants held pending deportation and thanked staff for their “crucial” work “to find the Albanians, to detain them, to put them on coaches, to take them to the airport and get them back to Tirana.”

“Such repeated rhetoric violates the positive spirit of bilateral cooperation confirmed in the (December) joint statement of Albanian’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,” the Albanian foreign ministry said.

On Sunday Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said on social media she was “shocked beyond words to hear a minister of state in charge of immigration use such language to secure some extra miserable votes.

More than 100 migrants arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel as 45 were rescued when a boat got into difficulty this week.

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said 106 migrants made the journey in two boats on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the French coastguard reported that 45 people were rescued in the Channel that afternoon after an incident off the coast of Pas-de-Calais.

Those on board the boat were taken to Calais, where they were met by emergency services and police, according to a translation of a statement from the Prefecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord.

It comes after government figures showed that no migrants had crossed the Channel to the UK for a fortnight amid bad weather conditions.

The 14-day hiatus between January 3 and January 16 was the longest stretch without any arrivals for nine months.

The total number of migrants who have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel so far this year is 150, according to MoD data.

Tuesday was the second day of crossings in 2023, after 44 migrants were recorded making the journey in one boat on January 2.

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