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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has revealed that hundreds of Albanian migrants have been repatriated as part of a “gold-standard” deal with the government in Tirana.
Jenrick, who initially suggested “thousands” had been removed, told Sky News that it was “early days” and that “spurious last-minute claims” were delaying deportations.
He said while “thousands of Albanian illegal migrants returned home and the numbers crossing from that country (are) significantly reducing,” only hundreds of people had left on flights as part of the deal with Albania.
He also admitted that a number of Albanian asylum-seekers remained in temporary accommodation or had “absconded.”
The UK government announced in April that “over 1,000” Albanians had been deported since December, including “failed asylum-seekers, foreign national offenders and voluntary returns.”
Around 16,000 Albanians claimed asylum in the UK in 2022, with Jenrick coming under fire for suggesting that they should be “excluded” from doing so as their country is safe.
The deal to “enhance cooperation” between the two countries was agreed between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama during the latter’s visit to London in December last year.
The agreement focused on “security issues and home affairs (with the main focus on the fight against organized crime and illegal immigration),” as well as “economic growth and investment” and “innovation, youth and education,” with a plan to set up a “joint migration task force” to “manage illegal migration of Albanian citizens to the UK.”
Sunak has made tackling illegal immigration a core issue of his premiership.
Jenrick said a second “landmark” deal with France had led to a “big increase in the number of interceptions” of boats carrying migrants across the English Channel, resulting in around 33,000 people being turned back.
Rama previously told Sky News that his meeting with Sunak had demonstrated “important signs of regret and embarrassment” from the UK government over rhetoric used by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who referred to Albanian migration across the Channel as an “invasion,” and to migrants themselves as “criminals.”
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