Why are Albanian migrants coming to the UK?

A growing number of Albanians are now coming to the UK  (Gareth Fuller / PA)
A growing number of Albanians are now coming to the UK (Gareth Fuller / PA)

An increasing number of migrants are making the risky crossing from Albania to the UK despite a warning of beefed-up deportation measures under Rishi Sunak’s Government.

More than 13,000 arrived last year from the country, which lies just north of Greece, and 43 were sent back in January, having made the perilous journey in a small boat.

This is what we know about the situation.

Why are Albanians coming to the UK?

The reasoning behind the rise could be a multitude of factors.

Dan O'Mahoney, the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, told a Home Office sub-committee that Albanian criminal gangs “have gained a foothold” in the north of France. Such gangs have been blamed for cocaine and cannabis operations in the UK.

“There are undoubtedly people who need our help - but there is also a large number who are deliberately gaming the system,” he said.

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama tweeted: “[The] UK should fight the crime gangs of all nationalities and stop discriminating Albanians to excuse policy failures.”

Albanian ambassador to the UK Qirjako Qirko said most make the journey for economic reasons. Corruption, low salaries, poor working conditions, and a low quality of life were all cited in a Gallup poll about why workers were looking to leave. Unemployment for 15- to 25-year-olds is at around 20 per cent.

How many migrants come to the UK from Albania?

Albanians accounted for 35 per cent of arrivals in the first nine months of 2022 (Gareth Fuller / PA)
Albanians accounted for 35 per cent of arrivals in the first nine months of 2022 (Gareth Fuller / PA)

An increasing number of Albanian migrants are making the journey to the UK.

In 2020, 50 arrived, the next year 800 made the crossing, while in 2022 more than 11,000 arrived in the first nine months. The number had reached 13,000 by December.

Many of those coming over are single, adult men.

Is Albania safe?

The Foreign Office considers Albania to generally be a safe place to visit and Rishi Sunak called it a "safe, prosperous European country".

More than 120,000 British nationals visit Albania every year and most visits are trouble-free.

It is a scenic spot for a holiday getaway, with beautiful beaches offering an alternative to Greece.

The UK Government has warned that opposition party demonstrations have been held in central Tirana, the capital city, in recent months.

Demonstrations can cause traffic diversions and other disruption, with more protests planned for 2023.

A statement added: “You should avoid any political rallies or demonstrations, and follow the advice of the local authorities as there is always a possibility they could turn violent.”

In addition, there are warnings about severe weather which can sometimes cause flooding in the country’s northern parts during winter months.

Albania is home to beautiful beaches (Shutterstock)
Albania is home to beautiful beaches (Shutterstock)

Is Albania in the EU?

Albania is looking to become a member of the European Union, having applied in 2009.

It is not yet part of the block but it has made progress and should be set to join at some point in the next few years.

Since June 2014, it has been an official candidate for accession and, in March 2020, the EU decided to open accession negotiations - a process launched last year.

A 2021 poll found that as many as 97 per cent of Albanians are in favour of EU membership.

Albanian citizens can currently enter EU nations without a visa and stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period as tourists.