UK to launch ad campaign to deter Albanians from crossing Channel

Critics call on British government to provide more safe routes for refugees

The UK government wants its campaign to deter Albanians from crossing the Channel to seek asylum. PA
Powered by automated translation

The UK is to launch an advertising campaign in Albania to warn people of the dangers involved in trying to enter Britain using small boats to cross the English Channel.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them refugees from the most vulnerable places in the world, make the dangerous crossing.

A large number of Albanians began to make the trip in 2022.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel from France has soared from fewer than 300 in 2018 to more than 45,000 last year.

The issue has become the focus of the UK government, which is intent on reducing migration into the country.

The Home Office campaign said people “face being detained and removed” if they made the journey.

The government would not reveal how much the initiative in Albania is expected to cost, but said it would “make clear the perils” that migrants encounter on small boats.

“Organised immigration crime is a global challenge that requires international solutions the whole way along the migration route,” UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said.

“That includes working proactively at source before people set off on dangerous and unnecessary journeys.

“We are determined to stop the boats and the campaign, launching in Albania this week, is just one component of the Home Office's work upstream to help dispel myths about illegal travel to the UK, explain the realities and combat the lies peddled by evil people smugglers who profit from this vile trade.”

Critics have called the campaign “pointless”, after a high number of Channel crossings was recorded last year despite similar measures introduced by the Home Office.

“This is yet another pointless campaign that shows ministers refuse to understand that a small minority of the world's refugees have very powerful reasons to come here,” said Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action.

“It also repeats the myth that refugee migration is illegal, when in fact a person's right to enter a country to claim asylum is protected by a Refugee Convention we helped create.

“If the government wanted to smash the smuggling gangs and stop people crossing the Channel in flimsy boats it would create more safe routes for refugees to travel here to claim asylum.”

Chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais Steve Smith said the government campaign would do little to stop people from crossing the Channel.

“No amount of taxpayer-funded PR spin will deter refugees, who have experienced some of the worst things imaginable from war and conflict to torture and human rights abuses, from seeking a safe future," he said.

“The only solution that will put people smugglers out of business, stop small boat crossings and save lives is to offer safe passage to refugees with a viable asylum claim in the UK.”

The Home Office has called Albania a “safe and prosperous country” and accused migrants from the country who crossed the Channel of issuing “spurious asylum claims when they arrive” in the UK.

Albanian citizens were responsible for the highest number of asylum claims in the UK between January and March this year, with 13,714 applications. UK data shows 9,487 came from those who arrived on boats that crossed the Channel.

A record 45,756 people crossed the Channel last year, according to official figures, up from the 28,526 in 2021.

In 2018, 299 people made the journey. In 2019, there were 1,843 and in 2020 the number rose to 8,466, Home Office data shows.

Updated: May 28, 2023, 11:20 PM