UK to give Albania millions to beautify state and stop migrants leaving
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be sent to Albania to help persuade migrants to stay in the Balkan state, rather than cross the Channel to the UK.
Britain is funding major infrastructure projects to create thousands of local jobs and upgrade local facilities in areas where young Albanians have already left the UK.
They include a huge new hydroelectric dam, industrial parks, environmental projects and leisure facilities in northern Albania, which already has strong ties to the UK after the first post-Kosovo war exodus.
It comes as Suella Braverman, the home secretary, and Robert Jenrick, her immigration minister, seek to seal a new ‘fast track’ route to deport thousands of Albanians who have traveled to the UK in course of the last 10 months.
“Exponential increase” of Channel migrants
This week, Dan O’Mahoney, Channel Clandestine Threat Commander for Border Force, revealed that 12,000 Albanians have arrived in the UK this year, including 10,000 men.
He told MPs that up to 2% of Albania’s adult male population had traveled to the UK in small boats. He attributed the “exponential rise” to Albanian criminal gangs “getting a foothold” in northern France.
Albanian officials argue there is no direct link between the migrant deals and foreign aid, but it is accepted as vital financial support to stem the exodus of young Albanians.
Last year, Priti Patel, then interior minister, signed an agreement with Albania to return deported foreign criminals.
Earlier this month, the Home Office tested an expedited return of 12 Channel migrants. He is now looking to extend the deal to thousands more who have reached the UK on small boats.
Mr Jenrick said: ‘We are looking at whether there is a tailor-made route for Albanians to have their cases heard quickly and be expelled from the country if they are not successful.
“And we are also looking diplomatically at how we can work with the Albanian government and in coalition with like-minded countries like France to reach an agreement with Albania.”
British cash used in Albania
Nearly £9m of UK cash is being used to develop the area around Has and the town of Kukes, in the hopes of deterring people from leaving.
In a recent address to his country, Edi Rama, its prime minister, told young Albanians that instead of spending thousands of pounds to pay smugglers, they should invest the money in rural tourism businesses that would bring them more than they could earn in the UK. .
“With the £20,000 or £30,000 you pay the traffickers, with the extra government support, you could start an agritourism business in your grandfather’s house in Kukes or Has,” he said .
Last week the Department for International Trade held a trade fair to help UK companies win contracts to help build the Skavica hydroelectric dam near Kukes. The department’s export credit agency is expected to provide tens of millions of pounds to secure the deals.
The UK government is also funding multimillion-pound projects to tackle organized crime gangs that have been blamed for fueling the influx of Albanian migrants – some of whom end up working on cannabis farms in the UK, as well as in the cocaine trade.
It is understood that last month the Home Office agreed to inject up to £4million into upgrading Albania’s crime lab to boost its forensic capacity.
The Home Office has also invested £2million in rebuilding Tirana’s Mother Teresa Airport police station, which receives foreign criminals and suspects deported from the UK.
After being fingerprinted, they face bans of up to three years from Europe’s Schengen travel zone.
A senior Tory MP said that with Albanians accounting for up to 80% of Channel migrants on some days, it is vital the government uses every lever to effect their return.
“It is not surprising that this involves financial arrangements,” the MP said.