Cameron travels to Albania to bolster partnership on tackling illegal migration

Ministers have repeatedly pointed to the success of a deal with Albania to curb small boat arrivals.

Sophie Wingate
Wednesday 22 May 2024 00:01 BST
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron is heading to Albania (Lucy North/PA)
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron is heading to Albania (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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The Foreign Secretary is to highlight the “key role” played by the UK’s partnership with Albania in tackling illegal migration during a visit to the country.

Lord David Cameron will hold talks with Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, President Bajram Begaj and foreign minister Igli Hasani on Wednesday while in the capital Tirana.

The Cabinet minister will also announce initiatives to help Albania crack down on gangs smuggling people across the English Channel and fuelling drugs crime in the UK.

Together we are reinforcing our partnership, strengthening European security, investing in the next generation of young people, building trade ties, and addressing corruption and organised crime

Lord Cameron

This will be through a potential joint programme to train Albanian judges to tackle money laundering, asset recovery and corruption, as well as through reforms of the country’s police force to better combat organised crime, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The Tory peer will also visit a police command centre, launch a British cultural centre at a former mausoleum, and confirm that £4 billion in UK export finance allocated for Albania could fund railway development in the country.

Ahead of his trip, Lord Cameron said: “Our partnership with Albania is delivering for both our people and playing a key role in tackling illegal migration. Small boat arrivals from Albania to the UK fell by over 90% in 2023, which means that fewer Albanians are falling into the hands of criminal gangs and making dangerous Channel crossings.

“Together we are reinforcing our partnership, strengthening European security, investing in the next generation of young people, building trade ties, and addressing corruption and organised crime to ensure that we build a stable and prosperous future for our countries.”

After a spike in 2022 in the number of Albanian nationals arriving in the UK in small boats, the governments of both nations struck an agreement to work together to prevent people from making the journey.

This included placing UK Border Force staff in Tirana airport, the exchange of senior police officers and the creation of a joint migration taskforce.

It is likely this contributed to a 93% drop in Albanians crossing the Channel, down from 12,658 in 2022 to 922 between January 1 and November 29 2023.

Under the returns agreement, the UK has removed 26,000 people over the last year including nearly 6,000 Albanians, the FCDO said.

Earlier this month, Britain handed Albania £1.6 million of cameras and drones in a bid to catch Channel people-smuggling gangs.

But the number of migrants arriving in the UK has continued to rise despite the Government’s efforts to curb crossings.

Provisional Home Office figures show 9,874 people have arrived in the UK in 2024 to date after making the journey from France – a new record for the first five months of a calendar year.

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