Ministers urged to deport Albanians gaming UK’s asylum system

Albanian man films dinghy crossing on the English channel

Ministers came under renewed pressure last night to deport Albanians allegedly exploiting asylum rules.

Government and law enforcement figures fear migrants from the Balkans state are coached to “manipulate” modern slavery laws.

Intelligence officers claim many crossing the Channel on small boats were told what to say before they even left their country.

Figures on Thursday show Albanians are a third of all potential victims of modern slavery.

This has led to fears that a deal struck by Rishi Sunak to increase deportations of Albanians is failing to prevent cheating.

Alp Mehmet, chairman of lower immigration think-tank Migration Watch UK, said: “It is concerning that last December’s agreement has yet to have an impact. Ministers must double down and ensure those who seek to exploit the system know they will be returned home.”

Some 1,452 of 4,746 potential victims of slavery referred to the Home Office from January to March were Albanian. The total rose by more than a quarter in the first three months of 2023 compared with last year and is the highest since the system was set up in 2009.

Simon Brocklesby, a National Crime Agency intelligence officer, said: “The Albanian criminal community will manipulate the [modern slavery] National Referral Mechanism in a fairly extensive fashion. We do know anecdotally speaking to police forces around the country that if an Albanian illegal migrant is arrested as a cannabis grower then often the first thing they’ll do is claim to be a victim of trafficking. It is in many ways blatant manipulation…something we believe from Albania is instilled in them before they leave for the UK.”

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The Home Office said NRM referrals for Albanians were higher than UK nationals for the fifth quarter in a row.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman was allegedly told by Albanian counterpart Bledar Cuci his countrymen exploit the law.

A source said: “The minister said he was a big supporter of the ‘stop the boats’ Bill…It would bring a stop to his countrymen gaming the UK system.”

Almost 13,000 Albanian nationals crossed the Channel in small boats last year, up from 800 in the previous 12 months.

  • Mr Sunak said Britain and Rwanda were “leading the way” on migration challenges as he met its president Paul Kagame at No10 on Thuesday. The UK has a £140million deal with Rwanda which will see some migrants who enter illegally flown to the African nation.

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