The Daily Telegraph

Albanian PM asks his people to stop crossing Channel

- By Charles Hymas HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR

ALBANIA’S prime minister has appealed to his countrymen to stop crossing the Channel in small boats as an estimated 2,000 were massed in northern France ready to make the perilous journey.

Edi Rama told young Albanians that instead of spending thousands of pounds paying people smugglers to get across the Channel, they should invest the money in rural tourism businesses that would earn them more than they could make in the UK.

He pledged his government would provide financial support to back such plans amid concerns that the number of young Albanians seeking to cross the Channel is increasing.

Border Force officials say Albanians now account for up to 60 per cent of arrivals, 100 times the number last year from the Balkan country.

Some 2,000 more Albanians are said to have reached northern France, and are now living in makeshift camps or crowding into B&BS in Dunkirk and Calais before making their crossing.

Last week, Albania’s parliament unanimousl­y backed a new “memorandum” with the UK to permit its police officers despatched to Britain to share criminal and biometric informatio­n on Albanian Channel migrants in an effort to fast-track their deportatio­n back to the Balkans.

Asked at the weekend about the exodus across the Channel, Mr Rama told reporters: “First of all, I would like to appeal to everyone not to take that path because it will be more and more difficult. It will become more and more expensive and most will fail.”

He admitted Albania could not offer Albanians the same “conditions” as the UK or Germany. “We are not magicians,” he said. But he insisted Albania had “many opportunit­ies” for those who “really want to make their own success through work”.

He suggested that the £20,000 or £30,000 that people were paying the trafficker­s to get to the UK, with government support, would enable them to build “agri-tourism” businesses based on their parents or grandparen­ts’ smallholdi­ngs.

“You can make a lot more money than you can from an ordinary job in the UK, unless you get involved with criminal networks that may lure you in with stories of more income but which ultimately leads to hell,” he said.

Law enforcemen­t agencies are concerned about the influx of Albanians, whose criminal gangs dominate the cocaine drug trade in the south of England and have expanded into cannabis farming by adapting agriponic techniques developed in Albania to grow the plants.

It is estimated that, by the end of this month, as many as 9,000 Albanians may have reached the UK.

Overall, nearly 4,700 migrants have already crossed the Channel this month, bringing the total so far this year to 29,716, compared to 28,526 for the whole of 2021 and 8,400 in 2020.

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