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No case for routinely offering asylum to claimants from ‘safe’ Albania – Home Affairs Committee

12 June 2023

A report published today by the Home Affairs Committee has found little evidence to indicate significant numbers of Albanian nationals are at risk in their own country and require asylum in the UK

However, some Albanian citizens making asylum claims will have been trafficked, and women are disproportionately at risk from this form of crime. The UK has an obligation to support trafficking victims and they should only be returned to Albania if appropriate safeguards are in place. 

In 2022, more than a quarter of the 45,755 people who crossed the Channel in small boats came from Albania and most claimed asylum. In one year the number of Albanians arriving in the UK by this route had gone from 800 to 12,301, a rise that was both unexpected and unexplained. 

Albania is a safe country, it is not at war and is a candidate country to join the European Union. There is no clear basis for the UK to routinely accept thousands of asylum applications from Albanian citizens, the Committee finds. 

However up to June 2022, 51% of asylum claims from Albania were initially accepted, a rate far higher than many comparable European nations. Nine countries, including Germany, accepted no asylum claims from Albania. The Home Office must explain why the UK’s acceptance rate was so high, particularly compared to other countries. It must also explain why the acceptance rate is substantially higher for women (88%) than for men (13%). 

Maintaining positive relations with the Albanian Government should also be a key priority to ensure that the UK can return irregular migrants and offenders from UK prisons. Politicians, commentators and others should be careful to show restraint in their language and not single out Albania as the sole cause of the UK’s asylum pressures. 

The report focusses on Albania due to the unexpected spike in small boat crossings and asylum claims by Albanian nationals in 2022. However, the Committee finds that it should not be singled out and scapegoated in relation to the UK’s ongoing asylum backlog or overcrowding at immigration processing centres. The Prime Minister has committed to clearing the backlog by the end of the year and the Home Office needs to set out how it plans to achieve this. The Government should also provide quarterly progress reports, including information on the number of pending claims in the backlog, staffing levels for asylum caseworkers numbers and the number of asylum decisions made per week. 

A key driver of migration from Albania to the UK is economic. People are prepared to make the journey, even in dangerous small boat crossings, for improved job prospects and higher incomes. The desire to come to the UK will continue until Albania become wealthier. 

Improved awareness of work visa programmes would support formalised migration to the economic benefit of the UK and Albania, providing an alternative to people smuggling gangs and reducing the burden on the asylum system. 

Only 325 work visas were granted to Albanian nationals in the first nine months of 2022, with evidence submitted to the inquiry arguing that a perceived difficulty in obtaining work in the UK through legal means could be driving people towards clandestine migration routes. The Committee finds that more should be done to promote the availability of visas that would fill worker shortages in the UK economy and enable some transfer of wealth back to Albania. This would include short-term or seasonal work in sectors such as construction or agriculture. 

Chair's comment

Home Affairs Committee Chair, Dame Diana Johnson MP, said: 

“Such a substantial sudden increase in asylum claims from a seemingly peaceful country understandably raised concerns. While it is important that questions are asked and lessons are learnt, it is clear that the immigration picture is not static and will continue to evolve. New challenges are likely to continue to emerge and it is important that the UK improves its overall approach to asylum, rather than focus on one country. 

“Changes in migration will inevitably place strain on any system, but the Government must do much more to ensure it can better handle these stresses. Most importantly it must improve the speed of decision making and clear the backlog as we set out in our Channel Crossings report in 2022. We expect the Home Office to set out how it plans to achieve this. 

“People will continue to be attracted to the UK from Albania while it continues to offer job opportunities and higher wages. The UK should look at how access to work visa schemes can be improved to fill our skills or staffing gaps, while offering Albanian nationals a route to higher income, benefiting both nations.” 

Further information

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