Rise in Albanian asylum seekers may be down to criminal gangs

Albanian gangs controlling UK drugs trade offer minibus trip and Channel crossing for £4,000 on TikTok

Official data released on Thursday has confirmed suspicions that Albanians are now a prominent national group among the asylum seekers travelling across the Channel.

But the Home Office and refugee charities are still trying to explain why there has been a recent surge in demand.

Speculation has fallen upon dominant organised criminal gangs known to have previously trafficked sex workers and gang members into the UK, and which now control large parts of the marijuana and cocaine markets.

Albanian gang activity is “rising up the security services’ list” of priorities because of the surge in arrivals from the Balkan state, it is understood.

Police say they have a stranglehold over the cocaine market in London and the south-east of England. A National Crime Agency (NCA) report in February said Albanian gangs had in the past five years imported expertise gained from industrial-scale cannabis farming in their home country to the UK.

NCA investigators say Albanians have brought a ruthless professionalism to cannabis farming that has displaced Vietnamese people as the main group producing the drug in the UK.

Evidence of a growing market offering Albanians a route across the Channel to the UK can be found on TikTok.

Anonymous accounts, written in Albanian and English, are advertising routes from the capital, Tirana, to Calais. Some suggest free minibus trips to Calais. Some accounts publish the prices while others invite potential customers to contact them privately.

“Go to England. £4,000. With boats. Every day,” says one.

According to the website Balkan Insight, another advert offered to take children too.

“Departures everyday [sic], the next departure is tomorrow on 22 July. We can take families also. You come today and leave tomorrow. We are the first and the best (for boats)”. The post has 2,706 likes and 52 comments.

Thursday’s figures show a substantial increase in arrivals from Albania. This year, 2,165 people were recorded as arriving between January and June, compared with just 23 detected over the same period in 2021.

The UK has signed a new deal to speed up the removal of Albanian nationals, and insiders hope that it could take just two to three weeks.

Refugee organisations point out that at present more than half of the Albanians who apply for asylum are granted permission to stay. Thursday’s data shows that just 21 people have been forcibly removed on the grounds of being “inadmissible” for asylum since Brexit, despite ministers widening the scope of that rule.

Some Albanian criminals have sneaked back into the UK after being deported, only to be arrested again.

Mauricio Myftaraj was jailed for 15 years over firearms and drugs offences after police raided his home, where they also found 40 rounds of ammunition and £20,000 in cash.

He was deported in 2015 and banned from returning after he was jailed three years earlier for a firearms offence – but he managed to return illegally.

Another Albanian county lines drug dealer, Xhenson Duka, was caught with more than £10,000 worth of cocaine and a knife after returning following deportation. He was jailed for three years at Maidstone crown court and has since been deported.

Flogert Farruku, who was found acting as a “gardener” at a £60,000 cannabis farm, had previously been deported, having been caught doing exactly the same activity. He has now been jailed once more and again faces deportation upon his release.


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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