UK PM’s immigration strategy unlikely to reduce illegal Channel crossings, says Home Office source

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s strategy for reducing illegal immigration by preventing Albanian migrants from crossing the English Channel in small boats is unlikely to succeed because there is “almost infinite” demand for the hazardous crossings among people of other nationalities, according to a Home Office source.

Sunak’s plans, announced last month, specifically target Albanian migrants, who accounted for more than a third of all cross-Channel arrivals in the UK last year. But a senior Home Office source told Sky News that they would not significantly reduce the number of migrants entering the UK.

“Even if you stopped any more Albanians coming across, the boats would still travel,” the source said.

“Their places on the boats would be filled by Somalis, Eritreans or Afghans, who can’t afford to pay as much as the Albanians are paying.

“There is an almost infinite number of people who want to come to the UK.”

About 33,000 people who came ashore in Kent during the first three quarters of 2022 were from Albania. They accounted for more than 30 percent of all arrivals, compared with only 3 percent in 2021.

A common route, identified by officials, starts with a budget flight from Albanian capital Tirana to Brussels, followed by a two-hour road trip to Calais, where migrants board small boats to cross the English Channel to the Kent coast.

In December, Sunak announced various measures for tackling illegal immigration, including a “new agreement and approach” with Albania’s leadership. This includes the deployment, for the first time, of UK Border Force officers at Tirana airport, new guidance for caseworkers that designates Albania as a “safe country” for the return of migrants, and the recruitment of 400 additional specialists to speed up asylum applications from Albanians.

Sunak said his plan would result in most asylum claims being rejected and thousands of Albanians would be returned on weekly flights until a backlog within the immigration system was cleared.

In response to the Sky News report, an official Home Office source said: “No one is saying illegal migrants from Albania is the only issue we face.

“That’s why the prime minister and the home secretary have a plan to tackle illegal migration across the Channel in small boats, irrespective of the nationality of those making the journey, and they will be bringing forward new legislation to target this as soon as possible.”