UK MPs find ‘little evidence’ Albanians should claim asylum

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A committee of UK MPs has said there is “little evidence” Albanians face risk of persecution in their homeland, raising doubts about the future of many who have claimed asylum in Britain.

Last year, 12,301 Albanians arrived in the UK illegally via small boats across the English Channel, with many going on to claim asylum. In the six months to June 2022, 51 percent of asylum claims made by Albanians were granted.

The committee said in a report, released Monday, that in the same period, nine other European countries accepted no asylum claims made by Albanians.

In the report, the MPs called on the government to explain why the acceptance rate for claims from a safe country was so high.

“Albania is a safe country,” the MPs said. “It is not at war and is a candidate country to join the European Union.

“There is no clear basis for the UK to routinely accept thousands of asylum applications from Albanian citizens, the committee finds.”

The report said that the main factor driving migration from Albania to the UK was better job opportunities.

The committee’s chair, Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, said there had been a “substantial, sudden increase in asylum claims from a seemingly peaceful country,” and that “while it is important that questions are asked and lessons are learnt, it is clear that the immigration picture is not static and will continue to evolve.”

Dame Diana added: “Changes in migration will inevitably place strain on any system, but the government must do much more to ensure it can better handle these stresses.”

The MPs also said that there were “unquestionably cases of Albanian citizens being trafficked to the UK,” noting that women were especially likely to be victims and that more needed to be done to support them and stop the trade.

The report said seasonal work visas in relevant sectors should also be used to facilitate the flow of Albanians without leading to baseless asylum claims or illegal crossings in the English Channel.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made tackling illegal migration to the UK one of the five core pledges of his premiership.

A recent deal struck between the UK and Albania, he said, had seen 1,800 Albanians sent home, but he added there was still “work to do.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Last year, 28 percent of those who arrived by small boat to the UK were from Albania — a safe European country and NATO ally — placing further strain on our asylum system.

“We’ve worked closely with the Albanian government to disrupt criminal gangs and deter illegal migration. In the five months to the end of May, Albanian small boat arrivals are down 90 percent on last year and we have returned 1,800 illegal migrants and foreign criminals back to Albania. Thanks to changes to our asylum system, we have gone from accepting one in five Albanian asylum claims to just one in 50, in line with other European countries.”

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