Plans to fast-track the removal of Albanian nationals entering the UK via small boat crossings have moved closer after Priti Patel met Albanian police.
Monday’s meeting was part of two days of talks on the sharing of forensics and biometrics to clamp down on anyone entering who has a criminal record in Albania, the Home Office said.
Patel and the Albanian minister for interior affairs, Bledi Çuçi, signed an agreement to tackle criminal gangs trafficking people from the Balkan country across Europe to Calais.
Specialists from UK and Albanian law enforcement, intelligence and operational teams will help to agree the final details of how frontline teams will operate to tackle the influx of Albanians across the Channel.
Figures released last week showed that 2,165 Albanians were recorded as arriving in the UK by small boats between January and June 2022, compared with just 23 detected in the same period the previous year.
According to the Home Office, Albania is a “safe and prosperous country” and many nationals “are traveling through multiple countries to make the journey to the UK” before making “spurious asylum claims when they arrive”.
But the Refugee Council has said it would be wrong to prejudge cases and that a majority of asylum applications from Albanian nationals in the UK are granted.
The Home Office said the UK and Albanian governments were implementing new joint ways of working, includinglaw enforcement working side by side in both countries to process arrivals, check criminal databases and share intelligence in real time. This pilot has already started.
Patel said: “It is shameful and absurd that so many Albanian nationals are entering the UK via small boats when their home country, Albania, is a safe country. In 2021 I signed our first ever removals agreement with the government of Albania, which covered our joint cooperation on tackling organized crime, illegal migration and law enforcement issues between our two countries.
“This agreement has enabled me to return Albanian nationals on a weekly basis and their removal will now be fast-tracked under this agreement, in tandem with measures introduced under the Nationality and Borders Act. These Albanian nationals are brought here illegally by organized criminal networks traveling through multiple EU countries. They are asylum shopping, making attempts to claim asylum in the UK in the hope that they can remain here and disappear into the criminal underworld fueled by Albanian gangs. We will bring this to an end.”