Number of Albanians trying to cross Channel plummets

UK government clampdown, drownings and worsening weather among possible reasons for 50% drop

Migrants carry a smuggling boat on their shoulders on a beach in northern France in October. AFP
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The number of Albanians illegally crossing on small boats into Britain has dropped by more than a half in the last two months, it has been reported.

The plummet in numbers crossing the English Channel since the end of last year has come after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to swiftly return “thousands” of Albanians back to their home country.

The drowning of four Albanians last month is also understood to have led to fewer crossings, as well as worsening weather making the journey harder and talks between the two countries.

“We’ve seen a marked drop in the number of Albanians coming across the Channel in small boats in recent months,” a government source told The Sunday Times. “It’s not clear exactly why, but nobody’s counting their chickens that they won’t try again, particularly as we move into the new year and spring.”

In the 12 months to September 2022, 85 per cent of the 11,000 Albanians who arrived by small boats submitted asylum applications.

More than 50 per cent of the claims made by Albanians were granted with most going to women and children.

But Britain’s National Crime Agency has stated that some Albanian migrants falsely claim to be victims of trafficking.

Mr Sunak is planning to introduce legislation to make it easier to deport Albanian migrants on flights in a bid to tackle the backlog of asylum seeker applications.

A record 11,000 Albanians arrived in the UK in small boats after they illegally crossed the Channel last year, compared with 815 in the whole of 2021.

The Home Office said men represented 95 per cent of Albanian small boat arrivals between 2018 and June 2022.

During the four months from May, Albanians accounted for 42 per cent of crossings, according to official data, but this peaked at 60 per cent on some of the busiest days last summer.

But now the proportion has dropped to below 10 per cent of illegal migrants, Whitehall sources said.

Dr Andi Hoxhaj, a lecturer in law at University College London who specialises in migration from the Balkans, said the majority of the arrivals were economic migrants.

“In some cases, what you could earn in one day here — say £200 on a construction site — is what someone might earn in one month in Albania,” he said.

Previously migrants had paid up to £20,000 to travel in the back of a lorry whereas a small boat crossing costs £2,500, he added.

Updated: January 15, 2023, 5:45 PM