Cameron to visit Albania to highlight 'key role' in tackling UK migration

British Foreign Secretary will also announce projects to help Albania crack down on people smuggling and drug gangs

A portrait of British Foreign Secretary David Cameron is attached on a facade at the Tirana University, in Tirana, Albania. AP
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British Foreign Secretary David Cameron will highlight how Albania has played a “key role” in tackling illegal migration to the UK during a visit to the country on Wednesday.

Lord Cameron is set to hold talks with Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, President Bajram Begaj and Foreign Minister Igli Hasani while in the capital Tirana.

He will also announce projects to help Albania crack down on gangs that smuggle people across the English Channel and fuel drugs crime in the UK.

This will be through a joint programme to train Albanian judges to tackle money laundering, asset recovery and corruption, and through reforms of the country’s police force to better combat organised crime, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Lord Cameron will also visit a police command centre, launch a British cultural centre at a former mausoleum, and confirm that £4 billion ($5.5 billion) in UK export finance allocated for Albania could fund railway development in the country.

“Our partnership with Albania is delivering for both our people and playing a key role in tackling illegal migration," he said before the trip.

"Small boat arrivals from Albania to the UK fell by over 90 per cent in 2023, which means that fewer Albanians are falling into the hands of criminal gangs and making dangerous Channel crossings.

“Together we are reinforcing our partnership, strengthening European security, investing in the next generation of young people, building trade ties, and addressing corruption and organised crime to ensure that we build a stable and prosperous future for our countries.”

Migrants attempt to cross the Channel from France - in pictures

After a 2022 surge in the number of Albanian nationals arriving in the UK in small boats, the governments of both nations struck an agreement to work together to prevent people from making the journey.

This included placing UK Border Force staff in Tirana airport, the exchange of senior police officers and the creation of a joint migration taskforce.

This contributed to a 93 per cent drop in Albanians crossing the Channel, down from 12,658 in 2022 to 922 between January 1 and November 29, 2023.

Under the returns agreement, the UK has removed 26,000 people over the past year, including nearly 6,000 Albanians, the FCDO said.

This month, Britain handed Albania £1.6 million of cameras and drones in a bid to catch people-smuggling gangs.

But the number of migrants arriving in the UK has continued to rise despite the government’s efforts to curb crossings.

Provisional Home Office figures show 9,874 people have arrived in the UK in 2024 so far after making the journey from France – a record for the first five months of a calendar year.

Updated: May 22, 2024, 2:21 PM