More than 40 Albanian criminals and migrants who tried to enter Britain by boat have returned to their country after being deported from the UK.
A Home Office evacuation flight with 42 people on board Mother Teresa was spotted landing at Tirana International Airport in the Albanian capital after leaving the UK earlier today.
There were 32 criminals who received a total of 89 years in prison for offenses including supplying class A drugs and facilitating illegal entry into the country.
Also on board were six failed asylum seekers and four other immigration offenders, such as those who had overstayed their visas or had previously arrived in Britain illegally. The three removed originally arrived in this country from northern France by small boat, the sources said.
British Immigration Enforcement officers escort Albanian migrants deported from the UK after landing in Tirana today
The Home Office deportation flight was carrying 42 Albanians, 32 of whom were being deported from the UK for criminal offences.
They were escorted by British Immigration Officers and met by Albanian Police upon landing.
It is believed to be the fourth flight to deport Albanians to the Balkan state in just over a month.
In November, foreign offenders sentenced to more than 24 years in prison were among 26 Albanians sent home.
And just over a week ago 11 men with a scathing rap sheet were deported from the UK to their home country.
The Home Office confirmed that 32 of those on today’s flight were criminals deported for being foreign offenders, six were pure asylum seekers and four were non-asylum offenders.
In addition, it was learned that three of the deportees arrived in the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats.
Foreign offenders included people convicted of drug production and supply, possession of an offensive weapon, theft, possession of criminal property and property damage.
There were also offenses for entering the UK, breaching a removal order and possession of false or improperly obtained immigration documents.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Those who have no right to be in the UK, including dangerous foreign criminals who break our laws, should be in no doubt that we will do everything we can to remove them. That is what the public rightly expects.”
The expulsion was a step forward in ministers’ efforts to remove more Albanians, after Prime Minister Rishi Suna pledged to remove “thousands” in the coming months.
He presented a five-point plan to deal with the canal crisis last week, including a series of measures to target Albanian arrivals.
More than 13,000 Albanians have arrived in Britain by small boat since the start of the year.
Now they make up one in three channels, despite their country being a staunch NATO ally that wants to join the EU.
A Home Office source said: “These Albanian criminals are back where they belong, in their own country. They committed serious crimes in the UK and therefore have no right to stay here. The government makes no apologies for removing them.
“We will continue to be tough against foreign criminals and those who should not be here.”
Offenses committed by the 32 criminals on board included possession of an offensive weapon, robbery, drug production and supply, possession of a false immigration document and possession of criminal property.
One was found in the UK despite being previously deported.
Last week, Mr Sunak insisted that Albania was a “safe and prosperous country in Europe” and added: “The Prime Minister of Albania himself has said that there is no reason why we cannot return Albanian asylum seekers immediately.”
A deportation flight that arrived from Stansted Airport on December 8 has been left by a man in Tirana
“Last year Germany, France and Sweden rejected almost 100 percent of Albanian asylum applications, but our rejection rate is only 45 percent. This must not continue.”
He said that the agreement with Albania will mark a “new approach”.
The return of Albanians will be facilitated after Tirana gave “formal guarantees” to the UK that they will “protect real victims and people at risk of re-trafficking”, the prime minister said.
“As a result of these changes, the vast majority of Albanian claims can be declared ‘unclear’ and these people can be quickly returned,” he told MPs.
“Thousands of Albanians will return home in the coming months.
“And we will continue with the weekly flights, until all the Albanians in our delays are removed.”
Interior Ministry officials said last week that small boat arrivals from Albania had fallen “quite significantly” in recent weeks, but the Interior Ministry is bracing for another surge.
Officials expect the numbers to rise again in the spring.
Mr. Sunak and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama have agreed on a joint communique outlining how they will fight illegal migration.
The document says the two governments will form a task force to “prevent and disrupt illegal migration and penetrate criminal networks”, amid concerns about links between small boat migrants and organized crime groups.
The leaders agreed to increase the number of migrants who are victims of trafficking to return to Albania, and both sides also committed to a “quick and effective” return.
The Home Office has yet to release details of the thwarting of removals due to late legal claims, including asylum claims and allegations of “modern slavery”.
Mr. Sunak has acknowledged the possibility of legal challenges, and has vowed to pass legislation to enforce the measures if necessary.
Officials gather outside a charter flight that took 11 Albanian criminals to Tirana on December 8
In October it was revealed that 12,000 Albanian nationals had arrived in the UK by crossing the Channel by boat since the start of the year. 50 in 2020 and only 800 last year.
Last month the National Crime Agency warned that criminal gangs were carrying out “significant manipulation” of the UK’s modern slavery laws.
He said Albanian gangs are ferrying people across the Channel in small boats to use as laborers in the drug trade.
The NCA said the gangs had been “trained” to exploit modern slavery laws if caught. Andrea Wilson, deputy director of the NCA, added: “It is likely that a significant proportion of Albanians in the UK will arrive here illegally.”
On December 8, a deportation flight carrying 11 Albanians convicted of drug offenses and illegal entry into the UK landed in Tirana.
30 British immigration officials were on board the flight to keep things in order while it was in the air and shortly after landing.
After landing, the men were taken to the airport police station, where their fingerprints were taken and their identities were checked.
They each had their passports stamped, preventing them from entering the EU for three years – done by the Albanian government to prevent them from trying to return to the UK using Channel people smugglers.