The UK vows to clear backlog of asylum seekers and to return Albanians

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By Euronews  with AP
The UK announces a reform in the handling of people arriving across the English Channel in small boats.
The UK announces a reform in the handling of people arriving across the English Channel in small boats.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Louis Witter, File

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged Tuesday to clear a backlog of asylum-seeker applications as he announced new measures aimed at curbing the number of migrants reaching the UK by crossing the English Channel on small boats.

Sunak, who has faced mounting pressure to limit the growing numbers of migrants arriving by small boats, said he also planned to introduce new legislation early next year to ensure people who arrive illegally cannot remain in the country.

The Prime Minister said he was adding hundreds of workers to process asylum claims and to clear the backlog, estimated at more than 143,000 pending applications, by the end of next year. 

More than 10,000 Albanians have arrived by that route to seek asylum this year, making up nearly a fourth of the record 44,000 people who made the dangerous journey across the busy waterway on small boats to the UK.

Britain recorded the arrival of only a few dozen Albanian asylum-seekers in 2020. Officials have said the large increase may be due to increased organisation by Albanian criminals working in northern France.

Sunak and others have insisted that Albania is a “fundamentally safe country” and that most asylum claims from its citizens are unfounded. 

“Over the coming months, thousands of Albanians will be returned home, and we will keep going with weekly flights until all the Albanians in our backlog have been removed,” he told Parliament.

He said Britain received formal assurances from Albania's government that “they will protect genuine victims and people at risk of re-trafficking, allowing us to detain and return people to Albania with confidence”.

The British government's focus on Albanian migrants recently angered Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who said the UK should “stop discriminating” against people from his country.

Sunak added that new laws would be introduced next year to ensure only those entering the UK through “safe and legal” routes have the right to claim asylum.

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