Ex-minister tells Albania's PM: 'Suella Braverman is not xenophobic'

Tory MP hits back at Albanian PM’s attack on ‘madhouse’ Britain as he says it’s ‘not xenophobic to want a firm but fair immigration system’ – after Suella Braverman blamed Albanians for rise in Channel crossings

  • Albanian PM Edi Rama accused Suella Braverman of ‘fuelling xenophobia’ with comments about migrants
  • He said it is ‘insane’ to blame his country for Britain’s immigration woes, claiming it is about UK policy failure
  • Comes after Home Secretary described an ‘invasion’ of migrants and accused Albanians of abusing system
  • Crown Prince Leka says 12,000 Albanians who have arrived in the UK on dinghies is not an ‘invasion’ 

A former Tory minister has today hit back at the Prime Minister of Albania after he accused Suella Braverman of ‘demonising’ Albanians arriving on dinghies crossing the Channel.

Ex-education and Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith told MailOnline: ‘I don’t think it’s xenophobic to want a firm but fair immigration system’.

Albania’s PM Edi Rama claims Britain is becoming a ‘madhouse’ and accused the Home Secretary of ‘finding scapegoats’ when ‘failed policies’ are to blame for the migration crisis, warning Britain must treat his country with ‘respect’ if it wants to seal a fast-track returns deal.

Mr Rama, who has been Albania’s leader since 2013, said it was ‘insane’ to blame his country for the UK’s immigration and crime woes. He said he was ‘disgusted’ by the Home Secretary’s description of an ‘invasion’ of England by migrants crossing the Channel. Albania’s Crown Prince Leka accused her of ‘demonising’ and ‘slandering’ Albanians.

The remarks indicated a souring of relations over the Channel crisis, after it was confirmed last week that 12,000 Albanians had reached the UK by small boats this year, compared to 50 in 2020. 

This week Ms Braverman said the UK had seen a ‘surge in the number of Albanian arrivals’ and that ‘many of them [are] abusing our modern slavery laws’, adding: ‘Albania is not a war torn country. And it is very difficult to see how claims for asylum really can be legitimate claims for asylum.’ 

Addressing the Albanian PM’s criticism, Mr Brendan Clarke-Smith told MailOnline: ‘We can’t turn a blind eye to the criminal activity going on in the Channel and it’s worth pointing out that every young male coming from a safe country that plays the system is cheating others who are in genuine need.

‘We know where they are coming from and the facts speak for themselves. This is why we need to continue to work with countries such as Albania and why sharing intelligence on things such as criminal records is vital.

‘The Home Secretary is right to call out this criminality and the support she has received from the public shows the vast majority of people in this country feel the same.’ He added: ‘I don’t think it’s xenophobic to want a firm but fair immigration system’.

Suella Braverman is in Dover today where a dockside reception site for migrants was petrol bombed. There is also an ongoing crisis at the overly crowded Manston arrivals centre, where residents including children have been sleeping on floors of marquees for up to a month. Migrants were pictured performing Albania’s controversial nationalist eagle gesture as they left the Manston yesterday.

Edi Rama said Britain is becoming like a ‘madhouse’ with a culture of ‘finding scapegoats’ during the migration crisis when ‘failed policies’ are to blame. Ex-education and Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith told MailOnline: ‘I don’t think it’s xenophobic to want a firm but fair immigration system’.

Albania’s Crown Prince Leka II, pictured with his wife Crown Princess Elia, has accused Suella Braverman of ‘demonising’ and ‘slandering’ his countrymen after she said many Albanians are gaming the system and are not genuine asylum seekers

Leka said the 12,000 Albanians who have arrived in the UK on dinghies in 2022 – 10,000 of them single, young men – is not an ‘invasion’

A migrant is seen making an eagle gesture from the window of a coach as it left the Manston arrival centre in Kent yesterday 

The trigger for his outburst was unclear, but it came 48 hours after Home Secretary Suella Braverman described an ‘invasion’ of migrants across the Channel

One in six people living in England and Wales were born outside the UK with ten million non-UK nationals now calling the two countries home, census data has shown. 

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a huge 576 per cent surge in people who were born in Romania – up from 80,000 in 2011 to 539,000 in 2021.

The number of usual residents of England and Wales born outside the UK had risen by 2.5million since 2011. 

The large increase in the number of those born in Romania followed the lifting of working restrictions across the European Union in 2014.

More than half of the total population increase in the past decade is because of positive net migration – the difference between those who immigrated into and emigrated out of England and Wales.

India remained the most common country of birth outside the UK – with those 925,000 people making up 1.5 per cent of the population. 

It was followed by Poland, which had 743,000 people – or 1.2 per cent – and Pakistan, with 624,000.

Meanwhile, the countries no longer in the top 10 non-UK countries of birth were the US and Jamaica. 

But Italy entered the table in sixth place behind Romania, fourth, and Ireland, fifth, and ahead of Bangladesh as seventh, eighth-placed Nigeria, Germany, ninth, and South Africa at tenth. 

The data showed those who listed Ireland as their country of birth declined from 407,000 in 2011 to 325,000 in 2021. 

Albania’s Crown Prince Leka said the 12,000 Albanians who have arrived in the UK on dinghies in 2022 – 10,000 of them single, young men – was not an ‘invasion’.

He tweeted: ‘Stop demonising us for your own internal political benefits. The UK has a population of 67 million, with 6 million emigrants (sic). 12,000 Albanians is not an invasion. The failings of British law enforcement is not our responsibility. A vast number of Albanians coming to the UK are from the EU and not Albania.’

While Albania is a republic and its monarchy was abolished in 1946, the country still recognises Prince Leka as the head of the country’s royal house since he is the only grandchild of the country’s final king – Zog I.

Ms Braverman has frequently singled out Albanian asylum seekers after their numbers crossing the Channel in small boats spiralled. She has also been considering negotiating a ‘bespoke route’ with the nation to get failed Albanian asylum seekers removed from the UK quicker – but this could now be under threat.

She told the Commons on Monday: ‘If Labour were in charge they would be allowing all the Albanian criminals to come to this country, they would be allowing all the small boats to come to the UK, they would open our borders and totally undermine the trust of the British people in controlling our sovereignty’. 

It came as migrants were pictured performing Albania’s controversial nationalist eagle gesture as they left the Manston arrival centre.  

Mr Rama said the UK had been a beacon for the world in terms of integrating people arriving from abroad – but now claims it has a culture of ‘finding scapegoats’ during the migration crisis when ‘failed policies’ are to blame.  

He told Newsnight that these were ‘crazy words’ and said this sort of language fuels xenophobia and goes against ‘the great British tradition of integrating the minorities’. He has claimed that 70 per cent of the 140,000 Albanians in the UK were living in Italy and Greece and that Albanians in the UK ‘work hard and pay tax’.

He said: ‘I thought it came a point where it was impossible to not react because it was really an embarrassment for our civilisation to hear all kind of crazy words being thrown in the air like normality and ‘invasion’ was the peak.

‘It’s about the climate that has been created, and it’s about finding scapegoats and blaming others.

‘While it’s very obvious, even from Tirana, which is not so near to London, that it’s about failed policies, it’s not about Albanians or aliens or gangsters, but it’s about failed policies on borders and on crime.’

Asked what the consequence of this language might be for Albanians settled in the UK, he said: ‘It doesn’t come for good. This kind of language is not a policy, is not a programme, is not a vision, is nothing but fuelling xenophobia and targeting, singling out [a] community and practically going totally against the great British tradition of integrating the minorities.

‘Britain was a role model in this and now is becoming like, I don’t know, like a madhouse.

‘I’m not angry at all. I’m a big admirer of the United Kingdom. I have friends that I’m privileged to have there, and I admire everything that Britain represents.

‘But I really am disgusted about this kind of politics that at the end is doomed to fail.’

Asked whether he would be happy to work with the UK Government and agencies to clamp down on the trafficking gangs, he said his country works with UK agencies already.

‘It’s not the UK’s great professionals – the problem is this political rhetoric of nonsense,’ he said.

In a separate outburst yesterday Mr Rama, who has been Albania’s leader since 2013, also demanded ‘mutual respect’ and said it was ‘insane’ to blame his country for the UK’s immigration and crime woes.

His comments appeared to jeopardise a project between the Home Office and Tirana to set up a ‘fast-track’ removals programme for Albanian migrants. 

It came as a poll suggested that nearly six out of ten Britons believe the Government has lost control of our borders.

Home Office sources have previously said Albanian officials ‘couldn’t have been more helpful’ as they launched joint work on tackling a sharp rise in numbers crossing from northern France.

But in a volley of critical remarks published on his personal Twitter account yesterday, the Albanian PM accused the UK of ‘policy failures’ and of ‘punishing’ his people.

‘Targeting Albanians (as some shamefully did when fighting for Brexit) as the cause of Britain’s crime and border problems makes for easy rhetoric but ignores hard fact,’ Mr Rama wrote.

Edi Rama, who has been Albania’s leader since 2013, demanded ‘mutual respect’ and said it was ‘insane’ to blame his country for the UK’s immigration and crime woes

A group of people thought to be migrants gather their belongings before leaving the Manston immigration short-term holding facility

‘Repeating the same things and expecting different results is insane (ask Einstein!). Albanians in the UK work hard and pay tax. 

‘UK should fight the crime gangs of all nationalities and stop discriminating [against] Albanians to excuse policy failures.’

He said when Germany experienced a rise in Albanian migrants, it ‘tightened its own systems’, adding: ‘The UK can and should do the same, not respond with a rhetoric of crime that ends up punishing the innocent.’

Asked about Mr Rama’s Twitter comments, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the UK should prioritise refuge for people in ‘genuine danger’.

He told Sky News’ The Take with Sophy Ridge: ‘I want to have a constructive and productive relationship with our Albanian friends. That’s extremely important.

‘But it is correct that a quarter of people who’ve come in small boats have come from Albania this year, and the NCA, our national crime organisation, has said that a very significant proportion of serious organised crime is emanating from those individuals.’


But a Home Office source insisted last night: ‘We are always working closely with our Albanian partners on a range of issues and will continue to do so.’

A ‘rapid removals’ deal with Albania was announced by former home secretary Priti Patel in August.  The Home Office said Albanians who claimed asylum here would have their cases processed ‘immediately’ and those with no right to be in the UK would be removed ‘as soon as possible’.

Senior police officers from the Balkan country were due to come to Britain to work alongside UK immigration officials, and officials in Tirana would agree to receive planes at short notice.

Migrants have been pictured performing Albania’s controversial eagle gesture as they left the Manston arrival centre.

Two migrants were seen smiling as they put their hands together to form a double-headed eagle, similar to the one depicted on the Albanian flag, from the window of a bus yesterday.

The nationalist gesture was performed at the 2018 World Cup by footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who were playing for Switzerland against Serbia, with critics accusing the footballers of inflaming tensions among Serbian nationalists and ethnic Albanians. They were both fined by FIFA’s disciplinary panel for doing so.

One man points towards another migrant as he puts their his hands together to form a double-headed eagle, similar to the one depicted on the Albanian flag

Granit Xhaka performs the nationalist gesture in a World Cup game between Switzerland and Serbia in 2018

Xherdan Shaqiri performs the nationalist gesture in a World Cup game between Switzerland and Serbia in 2018

How the Albanian double-headed eagle has previously sparked controversy 

One man arriving in Britain today posed for the cameras in Dover by putting his hands together to form a double-headed eagle similar to the one on the Albanian flag.

The gesture was performed at the 2018 World Cup by footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who were playing for Switzerland against Serbia. 

Former Liverpool star Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and Arsenal midfielder Xhaka was born to Albanian parents who were originally from Serbia.

His father was a political prisoner following the 1968 student demonstations in Yugoslavia against the communist government in Belgrade. Xhaka’s brother Taulant plays for Albania’s national side.

The nationalist symbol risked inflaming tensions in the Balkans among Serbians – who do not recognise Kosovo’s independence – and ethnic Albanians.

The Serbian FA lodged a formal complaint over the nationalist symbol and the players received a warning and a fine of around £7,500 for unsporting behaviour.

Ministers are currenlty drawing up plans to deport thousands of Albanian asylum seekers almost immediately after they arrive in a bid to ease the Channel migration crisis. They want to avoid giving those who fail to be granted asylum having time to launch an appeal against the decision by shipping them back to eastern Europe ‘within days’. 

Currently the legal process means that arrivals have to be put up in hotels at huge cost to the taxpayer because they can only be held briefly in arrival centres like Manston. 

Another proposal being examined is toughening up the Modern Slavery Act, which ministers say has become the ‘biggest loophole’ in the immigration system. Home Office figures show the number of Albanian migrants claiming to be victims of modern slavery is set to double this year to 5,000.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the Telegraph that Albanians were ‘abusing’ the act and delaying deportation attempts. One to two per cent of young Albanian men are believed to have attempted a Channel crossing, according to a senior Border Force official.

So far this year, more than 12,000 Albanians have illegally crossed the Channel into Britain – 10,000 of whom were single, adult men. 

However, experts last night warned that attempts to remove arrivals before the legal process was complete would break international law. One told the Times: ‘How can you exercise your appeal rights if you’re not in the UK? It would be extrajudicial, and contravene rights under the Refugee Convention.’ 

There will also be questions over the ability of the system to be sped up. 

Taxpayers are currently paying nearly £7million a day to house tens of thousands of asylum seekers in hotels after the Home Office managed to process just four per cent of asylum claims from people who crossed the Channel last year.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent on October 27

A group of people thought to be migrants at Dover on October 13 

‘Don’t scupper the migrant dinghies’: French police are ordered not to halt boats bound for UK amid fears of legal action

Tom Kelly, Investigations Editor for the Daily Mail  

French police have been ordered not to stop migrant boats in the water departing for Britain because of fears of facing legal action.

The diktat has left ‘overwhelmed’ officers powerless to intervene as people smuggling gangs ruthlessly exploit the system to send thousands more migrants on perilous cross Channel crossings.

The policy was introduced after a campaign group filed a complaint accusing police of endangering human life after officers punctured an overloaded small boat just a few yards from the shore to prevent it leaving.

A subsequent notice from France’s Departmental Board of the National Police issued on August 26 banned officers from targeting boats already in the water. Only those on the beach or on the road could be intercepted.

People smugglers swiftly responded, setting up almost untouchable ‘taxi boat’ services.

Instead of taking dinghies to the beach by road and inflating them on the sand, as before, gangs now pilot boats along the coast and pick up groups of migrants waiting on the shore at pre-arranged spots.

The Government is desperate to will crack down on young Albanian men – some with ‘criminal intent’ – crossing the Channel to come to the UK. 

Robert Jenrick said yesterday the Government would work on a ‘fast-track’ system to speed up the removal of migrants with no right to stay in Britain.

He said an agreement signed last year had already led to 1,000 Albanians being returned, but insisted he wanted to see ‘far more’ sent back in the coming months.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said that the intense pressure at the Manston migrant processing centre will not be solved quickly.

He told Sky News that work was ongoing to get migrants from the site quicker but said ‘it is reasonable to say it is not going to happen overnight’.

‘There are no simple solutions here. 

‘They’re very difficult. The Government is putting the steps in place to procure more accommodation.’

Former home secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement last July which strengthened existing arrangements to remove Albanian nationals who have no right to be in the UK, including failed asylum seekers.

The Home Office said then that Albanian nationals made up the largest number of foreign national offenders in UK prisons totalling 16 per cent of the foreign national offenders population.

Mr Jenrick yesterday described many of those arriving in Britain from Albania as ‘young males who are fit, healthy, prosperous enough to pay the criminal gangs to get here’.

The minister said Albania was a ‘demonstrably safe country’ – and people coming to the UK from there have travelled via other safe countries.

‘We should not be seeing these individuals coming to the UK,’  he said. 

‘You should claim asylum in the first safe country, and a very large proportion of Albanians coming to the UK are coming as economic migrants – some intent on criminality.’

EXCLUSIVE: Kicked out so migrants can be let in: Lifeboat crew on training course are thrown out of hotel to make way for asylum seekers… as ‘thousands of migrants are put up in five-star hotels, with one-in-four resorts block-booked for months’

A lifeboat crew on a training course was kicked out of a hotel midway through their stay to make way for asylum seekers, as thousands of homeless migrants are put up in five-star hotels.

Four members of the RNLI were turfed out of the three-star hotel in Hoylake, Merseyside, without notice on Tuesday.

They came back to find their bags packed and left in the foyer after taking part in a hovercraft training session on nearby mudflats.

A source said: ‘The irony is off the scale. These migrants were picked up in the Channel by members of Border Force and volunteers from the RNLI. Now some of those volunteers, literally on a course to improve the ways they can save lives at sea, have been kicked out of their hotel by the very people they’re training to rescue.’

The migrants were driven to the hotel from the crisis-hit overcrowded Manston asylum processing facility in Kent, more than 300 miles away.

It has also been revealed that four- and five-star hotels are being booked out for months at a time to house thousands of migrants.

The lifeboat crew came back to find their bags packed and left in the foyer after taking part in a hovercraft training session on nearby mudflats. Pictured, people thought to be migrants

The RNLI crew members – one volunteer and three staff – are now staying in a different hotel eight miles away in Liverpool. 

The Hoylake hotel is the latest to be identified to house asylum seekers. Sources said councillors were ‘left in the dark’ about the plans.

It is understood that the local authority was notified on Monday that the premises, which has more than 50 rooms, had been commissioned by the Home Office and government contractor Serco to house migrants.

One in four hotels being used fall into the four- and five-star category, with the Home Office ‘refreshing booking.com’ in the hunt for spaces, a source told The Sun.

Great Hallingbury Manor, a four-star hotel in Essex, is housing 50 men from north Africa

Great Hallingbury Manor has been block-booked out for ‘up to two months’, a staff member said

A staff member said that some of the men have complained about the food at Great Hallingbury Manor

Two of the hotels secured include Great Hallingbury Manor, a four-star hotel in Essex, and The Dolphin Inn, a four-star stay in St Ives, the news site reported.

There are more than 50 men from north Africa staying in the Essex venue, which with its lake, picnic area and barbeque, has been block-booked out for ‘up to two months’, a staff member told The Sun.

‘They have the run of the hotel — the bedrooms are very comfortable — and three meals a day. Some have complained about the food because it’s not what they’re used to,’ the staff-member said.

‘They spend their time walking about or playing football. Language is a problem but they don’t say much. They tend to keep themselves to themselves.’

They added that there are two people ‘looking after’ the group of men.

The Dolphin Inn, in Cambridgeshire, is reportedly housing asylum seekers from Afghanistan and other countries.

The Prime Minister has said that since September, 4,500 more hotel beds have been sourced for the Government. 

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that when migrants are moved into Government-paid hotels, most of the hotel’s other facilities, such as pools and gyms, will not be available to use. 

It comes amid chaotic scenes across the country as immigration staff desperately try to find accommodation for the thousands of migrants crossing the Channel every week.

Jenni Halliday, Serco’s contract director for asylum accommodation services, said: ‘With the significant increases in the number of people arriving in the UK we have been faced with no alternative but to temporarily accommodate some asylum seekers in hotels. These hotels are only used as a last resort.’

Elsewhere, women fleeing domestic abuse could be next to find themselves displaced after a High Court ruling yesterday. 

A judge suspended an injunction which had prevented a hotel from housing asylum seekers. 

The migrants were driven to the hotel from the crisis-hit overcrowded Manston asylum processing facility in Kent, more than 300 miles away

The court heard that Stoke-on-Trent City Council opposed the Home Office’s plan to book all 88 rooms in the historic North Stafford Hotel because it was a breach of planning rules and prevented the council from using it for vulnerable locals.

The council wrote to the Home Office in September expressing its concerns at the plan.

‘In addition to this, it was the location used by the city council to accommodate low risk homeless families with children and women fleeing domestic abuse, who will now be displaced as this arrangement has been ended by the hotel as a direct result of the Home Office proposal,’ the letter read.

The judge, Mr Justice Linden, refused to extend the injunction until a final hearing, which is expected to take place in December, meaning the hotel can be used to house migrants immediately.

In his ruling, he said: ‘I take into account the perspective of the citizens of Stoke-on-Trent but hope they would appreciate the potential suffering of the asylum seekers is no small matter when one considers the circumstances in which they have come.’

The city was one of four local authorities to take legal action against hotels being block-booked for migrants.

A council spokesman said: ‘We are obviously disappointed that we were unsuccessful in seeking a continuance of the interim injunction to restrain the use of a local hotel as a hostel by accommodating asylum seekers.

‘The city has a long tradition of supporting asylum seekers, having been an asylum dispersal area over three decades.’

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