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The Problem of Irregular Migration on the Albania-UK Line

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The nature of relations between Albania and the United Kingdom (UK), two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, has recently been shaped by the problem of irregular migration. In particular, the irregular migrant flow from Albania to the UK constitutes one of the main agendas of the British media.

According to the data of the UK Ministry of Defence, the number of migrants crossing the English Channel in August 2022 was recorded to be more than in the whole of 2020.[1] However, the number of immigrants coming to the UK from Albania is much higher compared to other countries. This situation causes a special attention to the issue of immigrants of Albanian origin in the UK.

According to the UK Government officials, Albanians currently make up about 60% of the people crossing the English Channel, 100 times last year’s number.[2] According to reports reflected in the Albanian media, financial reasons and the pursuit of better living standards are the main reasons that Albanians to emigrate from the country.[3]

In line with these developments, the UK is taking measures to prevent Albanian irregular migrants who are trying to enter the country via the English Channel from entering the country in small boats. On August 25, 2022, London and Tirana agreed to work together, pledging that immigrants who enter the UK illegally will be deported rapidly.[4]

Within the framework of the developments, it has been reflected in the British media that according to the agreement reached between Priti Patel, who served as Home Secretary during Boris Johnson’s duty in Prime Ministry, and the Albanian Government, Albanian police will be brought to Kent Coast to observe the arrival of migrants and share intelligence with the British government.[5] It was also noted that Patel met and held meetings with senior Albanian law enforcement officials in order to share the forensic and biometric details of all Albanians arriving in the UK via small boats.[6]

As it can be seen, it seems that the UK is in a full cooperation with the Albanian Government authorities in the face of this problem. Therefore, the cooperation prevents a crisis between the parties. Although the fruit of these policies was laid during the Boris Johnson era, it is likely that this attitude will continue under Liz Truss. Especially, one of the points highlighted in the news reflected in the British media about Albanians is the negative attitude towards the community.

As early as 2019, it is possible to see that articles have been written that the Albanian mafia taking control of the drug trade in the UK.[7] There have also been claims that prisons in the UK could house more Albanian offenders than prisons in Albania if action is not taken to tackle the migrant crisis.[8]

As it can be understood, it is emphasized in the British media that Albanians form criminal gangs in the UK and come to the fore with the drug trafficking. Therefore, it is possible that the UK Government will further toughen its stance on irregular migrants from Albania. However, despite this, it is not expected that there will be tension on the London-Tirana line. Because the parties are in cooperation on the management of the process. In this sense, it can be said that Tirana acts in harmony with London.

Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama told young Albanians on September 18, 2022, that instead of spending thousands of pounds paying people smugglers to get across the English Channel, they should invest the money in rural tourism businesses that would earn them more than they could earn in the UK.[9] Undoubtedly, the Prime Minister of Albania expressed the statements because he did not want a crisis with the UK due to this incident.

While the problem of irregular migrants between the UK and Albania continues, there is also the possibility that third actors may be involved in the process. According to the British press, as a result of the alleged cyber-attacks on Albania by Iran, the talks between London and Tirana on the issue were revealed.[10] However, weeks ago, the Albanian Parliament adopted a memorandum on the sharing of criminal and biometric data on Albanian migrants crossing the English Channel with UK law enforcement agencies.[11]

Consequently, irregular Albanian migration to the UK is a special issue in many respects. The fact that the two countries act in full harmony prevents the problem from turning into a crisis. In addition, the example of Albania could serve as a precedent for the policy that the London administration will implement in the future regarding irregular migration that could be headed from other countries. What may make this issue even more interesting is the possibility of Iran’s involvement. This possibility may cause the process to evolve to a quite different point.


[1] Matt Dathan, “More Migrants Crossed Channel in August Than During Whole of 2020”, The Times, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/more-migrants-crossed-channel-in-august-than-during-whole-of-2020-j8tpxntpb, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[2] Flora Thompson, “Majority of Migrants Crossing Channel are Albanian-Reports”, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/priti-patel-channel-isu-albania-border-force-b2151836.html, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[3] “Depopulation Crisis: 1.7 Millions of Albanians Have Left the Country”, Tirana Times, https://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=148533, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[4] “UK and Albania Pledge Rapid Removal of Those Entering the UK Illegally”, Government of the United Kingdom, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-albania-pledge-rapid-removal-of-those-entering-the-uk-illegally, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[5] Nicola Kelly, “Albanian with British-Born Children Faces Deportation After Decade in UK”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/26/albanian-british-born-children-faces-deportation-decade-uk, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[6] “More Migrants Crossed Channel in August Than in the Whole of 2020: More Than 8,600 Arrived in UK on Small Boats Taking Total for Year to More Than 25,000”, The Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11165923/More-migrants-crossed-Channel-August-2020-Total-year-25-000.html, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[7] Mark Townsend, “Kings of Cocaine: How the Albanian Mafia Seized Control of the UK Drugs Trade”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/13/kings-of-cocaine-albanian-mafia-uk-drugs-crime, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[8] Jon Austin, “Britain is Becoming ‘Albania’s Alcatraz’, Campaigners Warn”, Daily Express, https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1664301/albanian-criminals-uk-crossings-immigration-alcatraz-Richard-Tice, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[9] Charles Hymas, “Stop Crossing the Channel and Earn More at Home, Albanian PM Tells His People”, The Daily Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/18/stop-crossing-english-channel-albanian-pm-tells-people/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[10] Charles Hymas, “Secret UK and Albania Talks on illegal Migrants Exposed by Iranian Hack”, The Daily Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/19/secret-uk-albania-talks-illegal-migrants-exposed-iranian-hack/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[11] Ibid.

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.