Fjori SinorukaTiranaBIRNMarch 24, 202312:10After weeks of verbal spats between the two countries over illegal migration, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that they will work together to tackle the issue.

Albanian, UK, Leaders Patch up Row over Migration, Pledge Cooperation

Protesters demonstrate against the UK government’s new Illegal Migration Bill during an anti racism demonstration in central London, Britain, 18 March 2023. Tens of thousands of protesters marched through London to Downing Street calling for an end to the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill. Photo: EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

Albanian PM Edi Rama and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak pledged that their two countries will cooperate on the migration issue during the framework of Rama’s two-day visit to London.

The UK has complained that the number of Albanians arriving illegally in the UK has increased, and since then the country has taken several steps to tackle it.

“The leaders welcomed progress to date, with around 800 illegal migrants returning to Albania since December, action on organised crime and new UK guidance designating Albania a ‘safe country,’” a press release from the UK government noted.

In December, a joint Task Force Against Crime and Illegal Migration was announced in Tirana. The two countries said their law enforcement agencies would work together in fighting organised crime and illegal emigration through the implementation of a readmission agreement between the two countries.

“The leaders welcomed ongoing joint work on extraditions, prosecutions and forensics capabilities, and the removal of hundreds of prisoners under existing agreements. They agreed that a joint UK-Albanian team will conduct an assessment of Albania’s prison capacity – to be concluded by the end of April – with a view to returning all eligible Albanian nationals in the UK prison system,” the UK press release added.

The British government has introduced to parliament proposed legislation dubbed the “Stop the Boats” bill, to crack down on illegal migration, in many cases by Albanians using small boats to cross the Channel from France.

The new bill would make it easier for UK authorities to detain and deport people who arrive illegally. It includes a new “dedicated unit to speed up the processing of Albanian cases,” the UK Home Office [Interior Ministry] declared.

It is estimated that more than 11,000 Albanians have crossed the English Channel, which divides France from the UK, since the start of this year, out of a total of 44,000 such arrivals.

The issue has become a hot political issue in the UK, where the Conservative government is under pressure from the tabloid media to do more to tackle illegal migration and organised crime.

The issue has strained relations between the UK and Albania; while Sunak is under pressure to do more to tackle illegal migration and organised crime, his Albanian counterpart, Rama, has criticised the alarmist and often inflammatory rhetoric used by some UK politicians.

Earlier in his visit, Rama accused UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman of making “disgraceful” comments about Albanians.

However, Sunak, known for his calm manner, ignored the spat and focused on areas of agreement, posting an official Twitter picture of him and Rama smiling together and highlighting their joint “ambition to broaden & deepen the relationship”. 

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