The Home Office reports an increase in Albanians crossing to England by boat

The number of Albanians arriving in England via small boats via the Channel has risen dramatically to more than 40 percent of registered migrants using the route, officials said Data.

The proportion of small boats carrying Albanians rose from nearly 3 percent in 2021 to 18 percent in the first half of 2022, according to Interior Ministry data released on Wednesday. From May to September, the level jumped to 42 percent.

The data comes as a heated debate over the government’s handling of Channel crossings and Britain’s asylum system, which Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said was “broken” during a debate on Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament on Wednesday.

Afghans made up 18 percent of Channel crossings and Iranians 15 percent in the first six months of 2022, the interior ministry said.

Iranian and Iraqi nationals made up nearly half of the people who arrived in small boats between January 2018, when the government first began counting the nationalities of people crossing the canal, and June 2022.

An analysis of historical data by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank has shown that the majority of people using the English Channel to enter the UK come from conflict zones and have genuine reasons for seeking asylum, with around 70 per cent likely to be successful become their applications.

But the recent surge in Albanian arrivals has fueled debate over the distinction between economic migrants and refugees crossing the English Channel, after Home Secretary Suella Braverman stressed the criminality of those arriving from the south-eastern European country.

Line chart of migrants arriving in small boats, % of total The number of Albanian migrants arriving in small boats has increased dramatically

Braverman said earlier this week that if Labor were in charge it would allow all Albanian criminals to come to that country.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama replied furious to the debate in Britain on Wednesday, potentially complicating government efforts, flagged by Immigration Secretary Robert Jenrick on Monday, to negotiate quicker ways for Albanians to return home.

Rama said that targeting Albanians over the country’s crime and border problem is “simple rhetoric but ignores hard facts”.

He said that the overwhelming majority of Albanians who have moved to Britain are hardworking taxpayers. “Britain should fight criminal gangs of all nationalities and stop discriminating against Albanians as an excuse for political failure,” Rama wrote on Twitter.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged that migration remains a “serious and escalating problem” for the UK but defended the Conservatives’ record.

“Border control is a serious, complex issue, but the opposing party not only has no plan, they have resisted every single measure we have taken to resolve the issue, you cannot attack a plan if you don’t have a plan,” he said he.

Clare Moseley, who runs the charity Care4Calais, said her hunch was the surge in Albanians was driven by the relative success of people using boats to reach England.

The Monthly ('000) line chart showing UK arrivals in small boats has skyrocketed

Moseley said the crossings largely began in 2018, when an enterprising Iranian refugee began hosting other Iranians. Human smugglers were only involved later, she added, and even later the route was exploited by criminal trafficking gangs.

“It was the success that made other people do it,” she said. Measures taken by the government to stop smuggling across the English Channel, including closing all but a handful of legal and safe routes for refugees into the UK, have had the opposite effect, she argued.

“Just as Prohibition has fueled organized crime, our government is fueling people smugglers by cutting off safe and legal routes,” she said.

Last week Dan O’Mahoney, commander of secret threats to the Canal at the Home Office, blamed the exponential increase in the number of Albanians crossing by boat on criminal gangs “getting a foothold” in northern France.

He said there is a large proportion of young men among those coming from Albania who may not apply for asylum. “They are put in a hotel for a few days and then disappear,” he said, adding: “There is a huge amount of very harmful serious and organized crime in the UK perpetrated by Albanian criminal gangs.”

The government said: “We always work very closely with our Albanian partners on a range of issues and are committed to building on our previous cooperation, including in tackling illegal migration.”

https://www.ft.com/content/4049021c-3057-45a2-8ba2-80afccfbed0e The Home Office reports an increase in Albanians crossing to England by boat

Adam Bradshaw

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