The latest attempt by the Boris Johnson administration to deport refugees who had come to England “illegally” to foreign territory also seems to have failed this week. On Thursday, Albania fought against rumors circulating in London that negotiations were underway with the British about the temporary admission of thousands of asylum seekers against payment of many millions of pounds. The whole thing, said the Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka, was “nothing but fake news” – a false report that should not be believed. There are “absolutely no talks between Tirana and London on such a topic,” said Albania’s ambassador Qirjako Qirko. His country would “never, ever” do such a thing.
The generally well-informed Times of London reported on Thursday morning about “discreet negotiations” between the two states with the aim of setting up special camps in Albania. The paper quoted “a British government official” as saying it was “looking good” for a British-Albanian deal. Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Dominic Raab also did not deny that London had sought talks with Tirana. Albania was undoubtedly “one of the countries” that could be considered for such an arrangement, said Raab on Thursday.
24,000 arrivals in 2021
London’s plan apparently consisted of moving asylum seekers who had come to Britain in small boats across the English Channel to camps more than 2,000 kilometers away in south-eastern Europe, where they would wait months or even years for their asylum applications to be approved. Raab made no secret of the fact that the whole thing was intended as a deterrent. They are “determined to stop the crossings,” he said.
The background to the action is the sharp increase in the number of boat refugees in recent months. On Thursday last week alone – in a single day – almost 1,200 arrivals were counted. More than 24,000 people are said to have landed in small boats on the English coasts since the beginning of the year. In 2019 it was not even 2,000 for the whole year.
Interior Minister Prati Patel announced last year that she would make the canal route “impassable”. She had declared all boat refugees “illegal” and promised the French government nearly £ 80 million to prevent the crossings. But that has only led to ever new tensions with France, because even more patrols on the French coast are doing little. To date, only a small part of the sum is said to have been paid out by London.
Sending asylum seekers back to the continent officially had also proven difficult because Great Britain is no longer a member of the EU. In the past several hundred people were successfully deported “to Europe” every year with the help of the “Dublin Agreement”. According to the Interior Ministry, there were just five this year.
Patel has long considered “housing” asylum seekers on remote British properties or entirely abroad while their applications are being processed. At times the Atlantic islands Ascenion Island and St Helena were considered. There was even repeated talk of the unwelcome arrivals being transported to disused oil platforms in the North Sea or to old ferries or cruise ships.
The idea is well received by the British
In any case, in its new “Nationalities and Borders Act”, which is currently going through the British Parliament, the Johnson administration has already incorporated a paragraph that would allow its “offshoring” – i.e. the temporary deportation of asylum seekers to more distant regions . Not only the opposition parties are resisting such a practice, but also a number of conservative MPs. Many civil and human rights organizations also protested. According to surveys, the outsourcing idea is quite popular among the population.