Rishi Sunak vows to close migration 'loopholes' as PM holds crunch talks with Albania

Rishi Sunak has vowed to “close loopholes” in the asylum system after holding crunch talks with the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama. The two leaders spoke this afternoon, amid mounting concern over the number of Albanian migrants coming to the UK. This came after Official statistics in the UK showed that Albanians are now the largest single group making small-boat crossings of the Channel.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesperson said: “The leaders welcomed the longstanding close partnership between the UK and Albania and committed to strengthening collaboration on trade, investment and defence, including cyber security.

“The Prime Minister acknowledged the positive contribution of the Albanian community to life in the UK, but both leaders agreed that more needed to be done to address illegal migration and tackle organised crime together.

“They discussed plans to step up cooperation to address shared challenges, including closing loopholes that are preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers.

“The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Rama looked forward to working together to deal with those issues and deepen the broader UK-Albania relationship.”

In November, month, British MPs were told that 12,000 Albanians had arrived in the country so far this year after crossing the Channel. Just 20 Albanians made the journey in 2020.

Albanian organised crime gang groups are believed to be among the main players in smuggling migrants across the Channel to Britain from northern Europe.

Earlier this week, British and Belgian law enforcement officers said they had arrested three people suspected of being part of an Albanian people-smuggling ring.

But the UK government faced criticism from the Albanian president after Ms Braverman last month alleged that there is an “invasion” of England by migrants, pointing the finger at Albanian asylum seekers.

She claimed that many Albanian adult males who seek asylum in the UK have posed as children, a practice she intended to “clamp down” on.

Mr Rama hit back at the Government on Twitter, accusing it of “discrimination” against Albanians to “excuse policy failures”.

He said: “Targeting Albanians (as some shamefully did when fighting for Brexit) as the cause of Britain’s crime and border problems makes for easy rhetoric but ignores hard fact.

“Albanians in the UK work hard and pay tax. UK should fight the crime gangs of all nationalities and stop discriminating … to excuse policy failures.”

Earlier this month, net migration figures soared above pre-Brexit levels, rising to 504,000 in the year to June 2022.

Net migration for the year ending June 2015 – the year before the UK voted to leave the EU – was 336,000.

This came just one day after Home Secretary Suella Braverman admitted that the UK has “failed to control our borders”.

The Home Secretary said she is “absolutely determined to fix this problem.”

The statistics published earlier this month also show that there are still 9,242 Afghan refugees in hotels – 15 months after the evacuation.

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