UK urged to drive Rwanda deportations to stop Albanian migrants

Former Cabinet minister tells 'The National' that London must pressure Tirana to help halt the numbers of people attempting to reach the UK illegally

Migrants carry an inflatable boat as they attempt to cross the English Channel illegally to the UK from France. Almost 700 migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Channel to Britain in a single day last week, a new record for the year, the UK government said on August 2. AFP
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A senior Conservative MP has called on the UK government to step up its efforts to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda and deter boat crossings by Albanians.

Former Welsh Secretary David Jones has also demanded the British government puts pressure on Albania after it emerged that four out of 10 asylum seekers currently crossing the English Channel are coming from a country that has been at peace for three decades.

A leaked report from Britain’s military has revealed that of the 2,863 migrants smuggled by nine separate gangs in the six weeks from the start of June, 1,075 – or 37.5 per cent – were Albanian, three times more than any other nationality.

“If migrants understand that if they attempt to come illegally across the Channel and they will be finding that their application is processed in Kigali, that would give them some pause for thought,” Mr Jones told The National.

He urged the government to “press on” with the policy that was halted on 14 June after the first Rwanda deportation flight was grounded following a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights.

“The fact that we stopped the deportation of asylum seekers was really rather poor and it's given the impression that we've gone soft on the policy,” Mr Jones said.

He suggested that Britain should now consider “other partner countries around the world” with which to have a similar arrangement to the Rwanda agreement.

More than 17,000 migrants have crossed the busy shipping lanes from France to Britain in 2022 which, if the good weather continues, could surpass the 28,526 people who arrived illegally in 2021, a major increase from 8,404 the previous year.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, inspects a guard of honor during a welcome ceremony in Tirana on  August 1. A British MP has called on Mr Rama to help stem the number of migrants coming from Albania. EPA

Furthermore, numbers from Albania could grow in the coming weeks after smuggling gangs posted on the TikTok social media site a “summer sale” for £3,500 ($4,240) per person with a “100 per cent guarantee” that they would arrive in Britain.

With Albania at peace since a civil war in 1997, the migrants have been told by the people smugglers to claim that they are victims of human trafficking as an alternative to political asylum.

Claiming modern slavery has prevented and delayed their removal or deportation.

“If these people are not genuinely fleeing for their lives, then it is not up to the British taxpayer to support them,” said Richard Tice of the right-wing Reform UK party.

The government is proposing to change legislation through a British Bill of Rights that would displace the authority of the European Court of Human Rights which the UK helped introduce shortly after the Second World War.

With Albania attempting to join the EU, Mr Jones suggested that London should put pressure on Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government to help stop the people smuggling.

“Albania is not in a conflict or an area of the world where there are water shortages,” he said.

“This is just straightforward, criminal people trafficking and the British government should be taking a far firmer stance with the Albanian authorities

“It's surprising that an EU accession state is not doing more to crack down on organised trafficking from their country. I hope that the British government is engaging with the Albanian authorities and trying to get them to fulfil their obligations.”

The number of babies born in Britain to parents originally from the Western Balkans country has pushed Albania into the top 10 nationalities whose mothers and fathers were not born in the UK, according to an Office for National Statistics report.

In the past four years the country has also moved from 23rd to eighth place for the numbers of children born to Albanian fathers. The ONS report also highlighted that 29 per cent of all UK births were from women born outside Britain.

Updated: August 09, 2022, 1:53 PM