UK Reportedly Weighing Albania Asylum Centre as France Refutes '100% of Crossing' Prevention Claims
06:49 GMT 18.11.2021 (Updated: 15:16 GMT 28.05.2023)
Small boat arrivals in the UK this year already stand at more than double the figure for the whole of 2020, when 8,417 people crossed the English Channel.
The British government is considering opening an asylum centre in Albania, which ministers see as a deterrent to Channel-crossing migrants
, The Times
has cited unnamed Down Street sources as saying.
The plan reportedly stipulates that migrants entering the UK in dinghies and small boats will be transported to the centre within seven days for off-shore processing. The project would purportedly cost British taxpayers £100,000 ($134,800) per migrant for flights and accommodation.
One of the sources told The Times that the likelihood of London sealing a deal with Tirana is now "looking good", despite Albania's Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka in early October denying reports about such an agreement as "fake news".
Another source argued that "off-shore processing is our [the UK government's] best hope now, as nothing else is working" when it comes to the ongoing small boat arrivals.
France Rejects British Claims About Deal to Prevent '100%' of Channel Crossings
The sources' allegations came as the French Embassy in London rejected British claims that the UK and France had reached a deal to prevent "100 percent" of Channel crossings from France.
"For the record, the 100% figure was not agreed [upon] between the [British] Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister @GDarmanin and should not be presented as an agreed commitment. It is not. And it is not part of the joint statement #ChannelCrossings", the embassy insisted in a tweet.
The statement followed UK Home Secretary Priti Patel
meeting French counterpart Gerald Darmanin in Paris to discuss migrant crossing-related issues. Following the talks, the Home Office claimed that Patel and Darmanin "agreed to strengthen operational cooperation further" and that "more must be done to stop the dangerous crossings".
12 September 2021, 08:38 GMT
According to the Home Office, the two also agreed "to accelerate the delivery of the commitments made in the joint agreement of July 2021 to deliver on their joint determination to prevent 100% of crossings and make this deadly route unviable".
This was preceded by Darmanin warning the UK that it must stop using France as "a punching bag for their domestic politics", adding: "We are neither their collaborators nor their assistants. The smugglers, who organise networks and exploit women and children […] are very often themselves in Britain".
In September, it was reported that Patel plans to allow the country's Border Force to turn back small boats carrying migrants across the Channel.
British media outlets cited unnamed government sources as saying that Patel ordered officials to rewrite the UK's interpretation of maritime laws so that the migrant boats can be turned around and dealt with by French authorities.
The claims came after Patel threatened to halt funding promised to France in July in a deal to help Paris to tackle migration.
"We've not given them a penny of the money so far and France is going to have to get its act together if it wants to see the cash. It's payment by results and we've not yet seen those results. The money is conditional", Patel said.
On 21 July, London pledged to pay Paris £54 million ($74 million) to help fund their efforts to curb migrants crossing the English Channel, including by deploying more security forces and installing surveillance equipment.
Meanwhile, 1,185 migrants crossed the Channel into the UK last week, in what was the highest number ever recorded in a single day. In total this year, there have been over 20,000 crossings, more than double the figure for all of 2020.
9 September 2021, 14:15 GMT
Reports about the UK pondering the creation of a new asylum centre in Albania come after Britain lost the right to transfer refugees and migrants
to the EU nation they arrived in following the expiration of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.
The asylum centre initiative is also part of the yet-to-be-passed Nationality and Borders Bill, a cornerstone of the UK government's new plan on immigration-related issues. The document envisages that "Sections 77 and 78 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002" will be amended "so that it is possible to move asylum seekers from the UK while their asylum claim, or appeal is pending".
"This will keep the option open, if required in the future, to develop the capacity for offshore asylum processing - in line with our international obligations", the document reads.