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Anti-government protesters scuffle with police in Albania

TIRANA (Reuters) - Opposition protesters scuffled with police in front of the office of Prime Minister Edi Rama on Saturday where tens of thousands had gathered to protest against corruption, rising poverty and a growing number of people leaving the country.

After demonstrating peacefully for around three hours, protesters broke through the police cordon around the government building and threw red and black paint. Police arrested one protester.

Others lighted candles in memory of two men that, according to the opposition, died while in police custody.

"Just as 32 years ago, the world sees us as people (arriving in) small boats," said Sali Berisha the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, referring to the increasing number of Albanians reaching Britain.

British ministers say Albanians are behind a surge of migrants crossing the English Channel and that some of them are involved in organised crime.

The protest is seen in Albania as an attempt by Berisha to flex his muscles before local elections in May 2023.

Berisha, who has previously served both as president and prime minister, was barred in 2021 from entering the United States over alleged corruption. He denies any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Florion Goga, writing by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Christina Fincher)