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UK toughens criteria for Albanians seeking asylum

UK toughens criteria for Albanians seeking asylum

Rishi Sunak unveils crackdown after huge spike in cases this year.
Rishi Sunak will seek to reduce the spike in Albanian citizens claiming asylum in Britain, with tough new laws on illegal arrivals and tighter criteria around modern slavery claims.

Speaking in the House of Commons Tuesday, Sunak unveiled a package of measures designed to reduce the backlog of unresolved claims clogging the U.K.’s asylum system.

In the first six months of 2022, Albanian nationals made up 18 percent of undocumented migrants arriving in the U.K. on small boats across the English Channel, according to U.K. government data. Many claim asylum on arrival, arguing they have been trafficked as slaves. According to Home Office figures, the backlog of pending asylum applications from all nationalities topped 143,000 as of September.

As part of the new package of measures, Home Office officials will receive new guidance making it “crystal clear that Albania is a safe country,” Sunak said. This will allow claims from Albanian citizens to be processed in “weeks, instead of months,” he added, with many more being swiftly rejected.

“One of the reasons we struggle to remove people is because they unfairly exploit our modern slavery system,” Sunak said. “So we will significantly raise the threshold someone has to meet to be considered a modern slave.”

The U.K. government will also “double the number of asylum caseworkers,” reduce paperwork and attach caseworkers to specific nationalities of claimant, Sunak said, including a group of 400 dedicated to handling claims from Albanians.

Ministers will then bring forward legislation early next year to “make unambiguously clear that if you enter the U.K. illegally, you should not be able to remain here,” Sunak said. These new laws will make it harder for migrants and their lawyers to make “late or spurious claims” to frustrate deportation attempts, he said — an issue raised by successive U.K. home secretaries who all struggled to reduce the number of cross-Channel arrivals.

The removal of Albanians without right to be in the U.K. will also be fast-tracked, Sunak said, following a bilateral deal with the Albanian government allowing the U.K.’s Border Force officers to be stationed at Tirana Airport for the first time.

Sunak also announced plans to move away from housing undocumented migrants in hotels, which he said costs U.K. taxpayers £5.5 million a day, and instead use a range of alternative sites including “disused holiday parks, former student halls and surplus military sites.”

Government officials have identified locations that could accommodate 10,000 people and are working to secure these and more, Sunak told MPs.

A new “permanent unified small boats operational command” bringing together “military and civilian capability and the National Crime Agency” will also be established to tackle the increasing number of dinghies crossing the Channel, Sunak said. This unit will comprise about 700 employees.

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