UK and Albania working innovatively to build on migration partnership success

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Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street. Photo credit: UK Gov. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

The Foreign Secretary David Cameron will see first-hand how the UK’s relationship with Albania is delivering for both countries during a visit to Tirana today (Wednesday 22 May).

As Europe faces a growing migration crisis, the partnership between the UK and Albania stands out as a leading example of disrupting the business models of callous people smuggling gangs, significantly reducing dangerous small boats crossings, and providing a more prosperous future for young Albanians. 

This visit comes after the Prime Minister spoke to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama earlier this month to discuss the shared challenge of migration and the need for greater collaboration across Europe.

During the visit, he will hold talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama, as well as the Albanian President Bajram Begaj and Foreign Minister Igli Hasani on a range of issues including tackling illegal migration, organised crime, Western Balkan security and both countries’ steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.  

Foreign Secretary, David Cameron said:  

Our partnership with Albania is delivering for both our people and playing a key role in tackling illegal migration. Small boat arrivals from Albania to the UK fell by over 90% in 2023, which means that fewer Albanians are falling into the hands of criminal gangs and making dangerous channel crossings.

Together we are reinforcing our partnership, strengthening European security, investing in the next generation of young people, building trade ties, and addressing corruption and organised crime to ensure that we build a stable and prosperous future for our countries.

The Albania partnership is a benchmark for how the UK wants to work with partners globally, delivering results in reducing illegal migration to the UK, but also in helping to provide opportunities for Albanian people to stay and prosper in their own country. 

Under the new returns agreement, signed with the Albanian government, the UK has removed 26,000 people in the last twelve months including nearly 6,000 Albanians. 

The Foreign Secretary’s visit comes as the Prime Minister finishes a visit to Vienna, to meet Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, where the two leaders agreed stronger action must be taken to tackle the pressing issue of illegal migration, including designated safe third country partnerships such as the UK’s Rwanda model.

The Prime Minister also announced £25 million for the National Crime Agency to scale up operations to disrupt the operations of people smugglers in the Channel, making sure the UK’s borders are protected.

While in Tirana, the Foreign Secretary will announce that there are judiciary to judiciary discussions ongoing which will develop a programme to support Albanian judges. This will deploy UK expertise to train Albanian judges to learn best practice and provide expert guidance on tackling money laundering, asset recovery and corruption. He will also announce a new programme to support the Albanian State Police to reform and modernise so they can clamp down on crime groups that are threatening the livelihoods of Albanian and British citizens through people smuggling and the drugs trade.

Both these initiatives will equip Albania with the best possible tools to fight the gangs that are encouraging people to risk their lives crossing the Channel and fuelling drugs crime in the UK. A strengthened Albanian judiciary and police force will be more able to counter the criminals enabling people smuggling in the area, and will help make Albania a safer, more prosperous place to live in. This follows the announcement, made when the Minister for Illegal Migration visited Albania earlier this month, of £1.6m of UK funding invested in number plate recognition technology and drones to help the Albanian authorities track down criminals and fight illegal migration.  

The Foreign Secretary will visit the Pyramid of Tirana, originally built at the end of the Communist regime as a mausoleum for the former dictator, and now revitalised as a hub of innovation and technology for young Albanians. Launching the British cultural centre at the Pyramid, Lord Cameron will discuss with young people how the UK is helping them stimulate growth and prosperity in Albania, including through cyber security, scholarships, and support to entrepreneurs, providing a future of opportunities for the next generation of Albanians. 

The Foreign Secretary will also announce the UK’s commitment to explore the options for financing Albania’s railway development using our £4bn UK Export Finance allocated for Albania during Prime Minister Rama’s visit to the UK in 2023. Projects being explored include the railway between the port of Durres and Kosovo’s capital Pristina and the railway between the town of Rrogozhina and coastal city of Vlora. Both routes will improve regional connectivity and prosperity. 

The innovative initiatives announced today will continue to reinforce the UK’s partnership with Albania, sustaining our joint efforts to prevent small boat arrivals to the UK from Albania and build a stable and prosperous future for both countries. 

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