Revealed: Most Albanian asylum seekers granted UK visas are trafficked women

Exclusive: 86 per cent of people granted visas were women in genuine need of protection

Nicola Kelly
Tuesday 01 November 2022 17:33 GMT
Suella Braverman calls 'broken' immigration system an 'invasion on southern coast'

The majority of Albanian asylum seekers granted leave to remain in the UK in the past year were trafficked women, according to data obtained by The Independent.

Analysis from the Oxford Migration Observatory reveals that 86 per cent of Albanians who received positive decisions on asylum applications in the year ending June 2022 were women, whose leave to remain was granted on the basis that they were likely to have been trafficked and in genuine need of protection.

The analysis also shows that more than half (55 per cent) of adult Albanian asylum applicants were successful at the initial decision stage. Acceptance rates for Albanian asylum claims to the year ending June 2022 were higher in both Ireland and Italy, with initial decision grant rates of 88 per cent and 59 per cent respectively, compared to 55 per cent in the UK. France received a similar number of asylum applications to the UK, with both countries processing around 7,700 Albanian asylum applicants, including both main applicants and family members.

The newly released figures come the day after the home secretary Suella Braverman told MPs in the House of Commons that Albanians are “abusing modern slavery legislation” and that they are “not welcome and should not expect to stay”.

Last week at a home affairs select committee hearing, the small boats commander Dan O’Mahoney described an “exponential” rise in small boat arrivals from Albania, with more than 12,000 people this year, including 10,000 single men.

He said many “game the system” and are “not interested” in pursuing asylum claims. Mr O’Mahoney added that they “disappear and work illegally” and bring “very harmful criminality” to the UK, while others “need our help”, pointing to the large proportion of confirmed victims of modern slavery.

Dr Peter William Walsh, senior researcher at the Oxford Migration Observatory, said policy was not the major cause of the increase in asylum applications from Albania, or the high grant rate among female asylum seekers from the country.

"Clearly there has been an increase in the number of Albanians arriving by small boat, but it’s important to remember that there are mixed flows of people within this group. Some Albanians travelling by small boat are at serious risk and are therefore in need of protection under the asylum system, and there are others who are smuggled in to work in the informal economy.”

About 40,000 people have crossed the English Channel to the UK so far this year

Dr Walsh added: "It is commonly asserted that most Albanians do not have a legitimate claim for asylum, but recent statistics do not support this view. In the first half of 2022 55 per cent of adult asylum claims from Albanians were successful. In particular, in the most recent data, nearly 90 per cent of claims by Albanian women were granted by the UK government. This is in part due to the UK government’s commitment to protecting female victims of trafficking."

Immigration barrister Colin Yeo said that the high rate of visas granted was due to a change in UK government guidance, with more awareness among UK asylum decision makers that protection is not available for female victims of modern slavery in Albania.

"There are clearly genuine and serious problems with human trafficking gangs in Albania, as the Home Office itself recognises in its official country information reports and in the grants of asylum to Albanian women,” Mr Yeo said.

“The reality is that the Albanian authorities are not able to protect all of their own citizens from these crimes."

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “There has been a large increase in the number of people from Albania seeking asylum in the UK. It is important that we do not assume that because a country is not in conflict that these are not valid claims; indeed the latest statistics show that the majority are granted. Trafficking is a significant problem and it is important to stress that the reasons for an asylum claim can be complex.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “No one who is found to be at real risk of persecution or serious harm in their country of origin will be expected to return there.

“All asylum claims made in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits, against a background of relevant case law and up to date country information. The nationality of an applicant cannot be used to predict the success of their claim.”

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