PM tells Rishi Sunak he wants Albanians in UK to feel ‘honoured’

Albania’s prime minister said he wants all Albanians in the UK to feel “safe” and “honoured”, after earlier criticising the Home Secretary’s “disgraceful” rhetoric about migrants from his country.

Edi Rama and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke of a “shared priority” to tackle illegal migration and people-smugglers, in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Downing Street.

Speaking alongside Mr Sunak as the pair met, Mr Rama said his visit to Downing Street was “an opportunity to underline that just as all Britons are not James Bond or Mr Bean, not all Albanians are some characters out of Taken”.

Ahead of their private talks, Mr Sunak said they would be discussing tackling migrant small boats crossing the Channel, including doing “more on prisoner returns”.

The issue has strained Anglo-Albanian ties, with Mr Rama hitting out at the stereotyping of people from his nation as lawbreakers.

A diplomatic row erupted at the end of last year when Suella Braverman referred to “Albanian criminals” in Commons exchanges on the issue with Labour.

The Cabinet minister has also said that Albanians should not be claiming asylum in the UK because they are coming from a “safe country”.

Mr Rama told Mr Sunak in No 10 on Thursday: “Dua Lipa is not just simply a British singer, but she’s an Albanian immigrant that has come here, as many have come to construct, to nurse, to cook and to sing for you, and we want to make sure that this community feels not only safe but feels honoured here.

“And the rotten apples are our common objective to be gone after and to win this battle.”

The joint statement saw Mr Sunak and Mr Rama, who said he was “very honoured” to be the first Albanian premier to visit No 10, agree plans for UK and Albanian officials to conduct an assessment of the country’s prison capacity within the next month as part of efforts to return all eligible Albanian nationals currently in British prisons.

The two leaders, according to the statement, “discussed increased operational cooperation, including joint upstream communications to deter people from travelling in the first place, and further agreements on data sharing and passports”.

“The leaders welcomed progress to date, with around 800 illegal migrants returning to Albania since December, action on organised crime and new UK guidance designating Albania a safe country.”

Albanian Prime Minister visits UK
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) welcomes the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama to 10 Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

Earlier, Mr Rama said the row over Ms Braverman’s comments marked “a very low point” in relations but that he believes there is now a will to overcome their differences.

“Unfortunately we have seen ourselves and our community being singled out in this country for purposes of politics. It has been a very, very disgraceful moment for British politics,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Albanian Prime Minister visits UK
(Henry Nicholls/PA)

“I mean what has been spoke out by members of the Cabinet, starting with the Home Secretary, and then I mean what exactly has been developing as the singling out of our community, which is not something you do in our civilisation and is something that does not represent Britain at all.

“This has been a very low point in our relations but there is a will to overcome it.

“We will always refuse to have this mix between some criminals and the Albanians as such because giving to the crime an ethnic seal is itself a crime.”