The Times reported on Thursday that the UK Government hoped to strike a deal with Albania whereby migrants who arrived on Britain’s beaches would be taken to the country within a week to be processed.
The newspaper reported that the idea was that the prospect of a long wait in the Balkan state would act as a deterrent for those thinking about making the crossing.
Same old fake news this time in the front page of a respected paper as The Times!
And btw I am not a "he" but a "she" who has always admired the quality of British media. Sad. pic.twitter.com/UVcaiGt3N3
— Olta Xhaçka🇦🇱 (@xhacka_olta) November 18, 2021
The report said talks were under way but the country’s minister for Europe and foreign affairs, Olta Xhacka, said on Twitter it was “fake news” and added that the report had wrongly said she was a man.
Downing Street said it would not comment on talks with individual countries.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’ve always been clear that we want to keep all options on the table.
“As illegal migration is an international issue, you’d expect us to have discussions with both France and other international partners to help reduce illegal migration.”
He added that the UK had been in talks with a “number of countries”, but added: “I’m simply saying I’m not going to get into speculation about ongoing discussions with individually named countries.
“As you’d expect given the international elements of this, it is right the Government speaks to a number of countries about these global challenges.”
He added: “We think that all countries have a moral responsibility to tackle the issue of illegal migration and protect lives.
“We expect our international partners to engage with us on this and build on the existing co-operation we have, and we’ll continue to highlight the importance of having effective returns agreements to stop people making these crossings.”
But in the Commons the Conservative MP Peter Bone (Wellingborough), said: “Each week thousands of economic migrants come to this country illegally by crossing the Channel from France.
“Now we know that migrants landing on the Kent coast will be taken to Wellingborough, put in a four-star hotel and given free board, free food and free medical care.
“There might be many reasons why people want to flee France, but adding the pull factor of coming to Wellingborough — one of the finest and friendliest towns in the country — is absurd.
“Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time where the Government can lay out their position that in future economic migrants will be arriving not in the town of Wellingborough but in a town in Albania?”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg replied: “I can give him some comfort because the Borders Bill is currently passing through Parliament.
“This will give us much greater power to ensure that illegal asylum claims are dealt with efficiently and effectively, but also that people who have valid asylum claims that they declare legally early on will be treated in the properly sympathetic way that this country has the proud record of doing.”
More than 23,000 people have arrived in the UK this year after crossing the Channel in small boats. This is almost three times the total of around 8,500 in 2020.
Overall, there were 31,115 asylum claims made in the year ending in June, 4% fewer than the previous period, said Tom Pursglove, a minister for both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, but he added that the trend is an increase since June.
Speaking to LBC radio on Thursday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab confirmed that the Government was looking at processing migrants who cross the Channel in small boats overseas.
He said: “First of all, you’re always better off dealing with the flow of migrants from a crisis or a conflict in the region itself, our overwhelming focus is on that. It’s better for migrants, it’s better to be resettled and relocated nearer to your home.
“But to the extent that we get this flow over to the UK, it’s important to reduce the pull factor, we will work with all our partners – and it’s not just one country, we’ve looked at the Australian experience, we’ve been talking with the Danes about this and we want to make sure the processing, if it’s possible – and that will depend on the goodwill and co-operation of partners – can be done elsewhere.”
Asked if this will include Albania and Rwanda, he said: “Let me avoid talking about individual countries, but just say with international partners this is something we’re probing because we want to test the idea, because we will do everything we can to resolve this problem.”
Pressed if the plan would cost £100,000 per migrant, he said: “I don’t recognise that number. Until you’ve got a detailed agreement with a particular country, I don’t think we’ll be in a position to cost it.”
It comes after it was revealed that just five migrants who crossed the Channel by boat to the UK had been returned to Europe so far this year.
Boris Johnson was faced with questions about the migrant crisis from backbench Tory MPs on the 1922 Committee on Wednesday evening.