More than 12,000 Albanian migrants breach their bail conditions

Migrants picked up at sea attempting to cross the English Channel are helped ashore from an RNLI lifeboat at Dungeness - BEN STANSALL/AFP
Migrants picked up at sea attempting to cross the English Channel are helped ashore from an RNLI lifeboat at Dungeness - BEN STANSALL/AFP

Up to 12,800 Albanians who entered the UK illegally have broken their bail conditions, Home Office data shows.

The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, show 12,842 Albanians who had been allowed out of detention on immigration bail pending their deportation failed to report to officials at their designated time in breach of their conditions.

The data, covering the 15 months since the beginning of last year, suggests a significant proportion of the 12,301 Albanians who arrived on small boats across the Channel last year may have breached their bail conditions.

The FOI figures also include Albanians who reached the UK through other illegal means such as those hidden in cross-Channel lorries, cars or ferries.

Many of those released from detention on bail are kept under surveillance through electronic tags which monitor their movements but a cottage industry has sprouted up where criminals offer migrants help with cutting them off.

‘Albanian Rolex’

Scores of videos have been posted on the social media platform TikTok of Albanians using scissors or wire cutters to remove the ankle tags, dubbed within the community as “Albanian Rolex”.

One Albanian - tagged after being charged with growing 800 cannabis plants in an illegal farm - boasted on social media how easy it was to cut off his tag, using nothing more than kitchen scissors: “So, I am a criminal… F— it.”

Last week the Telegraph also revealed that Albanians are being offered up to £3,000 to act as guarantors to provide illegal migrants with fake addresses which is a condition required so they can be released on immigration bail from detention.

The guarantors, who have their own dedicated page on TikTok, are also offering to remove the Albanians’ electronic tags which are used to prevent the migrants from absconding once they are freed into the community.

The Home Office data, obtained by the Albanian TV station Top Channel, showed that Albanians accounted for more than a quarter of the overall 44,957 migrants who breached their immigration bail in the 15 months to March this year.

Immigration lawyers in London told Top Channel that Albanians were breaching their bail because of fears of being deported back to their country. Ministers have introduced fast-track removals of Albanians after negotiating a new returns agreement with the Albanian government.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We take further steps if the person does not comply with the conditions of their bail. There are further bail conditions, home visits, arrests and obtaining financial guarantees.”

It comes as the Home Office this weekend launched an advertising campaign targeted at Albanians, warning them in Albanian that they could be relocated to a third safe country such as Rwanda if they entered the UK illegally.

‘Duty to warn people of real risks’

They are being promoted on social media channels including Instagram and Facebook in Albania to counter the campaigns by people smugglers to lure migrants to the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Social media adverts promoting small boat crossings are wrong. We have a duty to warn people of the real risks and consequences of these journeys.”

The Home Office is vying with a spring advertising campaign also launched by the people smugglers on TikTok in which they even use the Coronation of King Charles as a marketing hook.

A video posted on May 26 offered small boat passage for “£3,500 to reach England and meet the King. You pay when you arrive there. 100% secure. No one returns you back”.

Another advert on the same page said: “All our crossings successful. Secure 100%. Payment on arrival”. A third claimed to have boats going from France, Belgium and Netherlands, adding: “State not able to find and stop you. Payment on arrival.”

A TikTok spokesman said: “We have a zero-tolerance approach to content that facilitates or promotes human trafficking and human smuggling on TikTok. Our safety teams have banned this account from the platform, and we continue to dedicate significant resources to fight this kind of content.”

Meanwhile, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, has pledged to “take to the fight” to people-smuggling gangs at their source as he begins the first leg of his five-day tour across north Africa and Europe.

Mr Jenrick has been given the approval of Rishi Sunak to offer Tunisia and Algeria “all the assets of the UK state” to “disrupt” and “degrade” the gangs.

He will also meet his ministerial counterparts in Libya, which hosted more than 680,000 migrants from 41 nationalities in August last year.  
He told the Times newspaper: “We’re taking the fight to the people-smuggling gangs upstream to help prevent dangerous and unnecessary journeys long before migrants are within reach of the UK.

“Just as we’ve deepened diplomatic and security co-operation on illegal migration with France, Italy and Albania, we are working to enhance our cooperation with other key transit and source countries for migration to tackle this shared challenge.

“ It is right that we use all the assets of the state to disrupt, degrade and deny gangs at source.”