The numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK from across the Channel has increased over the last 12 months ending June 2022 | Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA
The numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK from across the Channel has increased over the last 12 months ending June 2022 | Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA

The UK government has announced that a deal to deport Albanians crossing the Channel will not result in a fast-tracking of Albanian asylum seekers back to their country of origin. The deal had been agreed on in August under the former Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Earlier this week, the UK Home Office (interior ministry) under the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman conceded that it does not actually have the right to fast-track Albanians crossing the Channel back to their country of origin.

The announcement comes just a month after the former Home Secretary Priti Patel and her counterpart at the interior ministry in Albania, Bledi Cuci, "pledged to intensify joint work" to combat the "large numbers of Albanians" making their way across the Channel.

To this end, the Home Office on August 25 issued a press release which stated that it would "seek to expedite [the] removal of Albanians from next week following growing numbers taking treacherous journey on small boats."

The Home Office underlined that it considered Albania to be "a safe and prosperous country" and noted that Albanians traveling from there to the UK were crossing "multiple countries," also considered safe, before making "spurious asylum claims when they arrive."

'Removed as soon as possible'

Priti Patel warned that "people coming through this route will have [their] claims processed immediately," and anyone with no right to remain in the UK would be "removed as soon as possible."

She underscored that "large numbers of Albanians are being sold lies by ruthless people smugglers and vicious organized crime gangs, leading them to take treacherous journeys in flimsy boats to the UK." She called the practice an "abuse to our immigration system," and warned that people should not be allowed to continue to risk their lives in this way.

Bledi Cuci, the Albanian Minister for Interior Affairs, added that his government too discouraged "these illegal and dangerous practices," He added that Albania and the UK had discussed various "mid-term solutions to provide better opportunities for young people, and means of legal migration that enables skilled professionals and labor access to the UK."

The new Conservative government under Prime Minister Liz Truss has pledged to continue many of the migration policies of the former administration, including flying people to Rwanda and cracking down on cross-Channel migration | Photo: Reuters
The new Conservative government under Prime Minister Liz Truss has pledged to continue many of the migration policies of the former administration, including flying people to Rwanda and cracking down on cross-Channel migration | Photo: Reuters

Not applicable to Albanian asylum seekers

However, now, according to reports in The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, the government’s legal department has "confirmed that the scheme will not apply to Albanians who apply for asylum in the UK."

According to the Guardian, "the admission was made in a legal letter to solicitors working for the refugee charity Care4Calais," which had challenged the policy. BBC reporter Simon Jones, who covers stories relating to migrant channel crossings, tweeted on September 26 that the deal would not apply to Albanian asylum seekers.

The organization Care4Calais itself also revealed on Twitter that the UK government had confirmed to them in a letter received last week that they would stop referring to those crossing the Channel in small boats as "illegal entrants" and start calling them "arriving passengers."

The organization Care4Calais instructed their solicitors to send a pre-action letter to the UK government requesting information about the Albanian policy | Photo: Gareth Fuller / Imago images / Zuma press
The organization Care4Calais instructed their solicitors to send a pre-action letter to the UK government requesting information about the Albanian policy | Photo: Gareth Fuller / Imago images / Zuma press

'53% of Albanian asylum claims granted by Home Office'

Care4Calais added that according to the latest Home Office data, "53% of Albanian asylum claims were accepted by the Home Office." The organization called the Home Office’s change of tone "a major climbdown." It said, "in doing so, they are accepting that people from Albania have the right to make an asylum claim and have it fairly heard. This is a victory for human decency."


In data released by the Home Office for the 12-month period ending June 2022, the numbers of those asking for asylum from Albania were up by 103% from 3,578 in the year ending June 2021 to 7,267 in the year ending June 2022.

Overall, the numbers of positive decisions on asylum applications for all applicants, not just those from Albania, had also risen. The overall recognition rate for all nationalities in the year ending June 22 was 76%.

The U-turn came because the government was being threatened with judicial review over its latest immigration policy announcement, according to The Guardian. The new Home Secretary is a lawyer and former attorney general.

Threatened with legal action

The legal action on behalf of Care4Calais was sent to the government by the law firm Duncan Lewis Solicitors. They are reported to have sent a pre-action letter which asked the government for disclosure of the proposed Albania scheme.

The government’s reply confirmed that the scheme for fast-track deportations would not apply to those seeking asylum. The government added via an unnamed spokesperson, reported the Guardian, that since they signed a returns agreement with Albania, they have "removed 1,000 Albanians, including some who crossed the Channel illegally to come to the UK."

The government spokesperson reportedly underlined that "those who seek to abuse our system should be in no doubt of our determination to remove them." It was reported by The Independent, that under the current Home Secretary, Suella Braverman the Home Office has continued to send out removal letters to those it hopes to fly to Rwanda for asylum processing there. The letters continued, stated the Independent, even during the period of mourning for the death of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

 

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