Last year, the UK saw an increase in the number of Indians illegally entering the nation through small boats over the English Channel, with 638 Indians doing so. While this is a significant increase over prior years’ numbers (67 in 2021 and 64 in 2020), it remains a small proportion of the total number of migrants who entered the UK through small boats, which stands at 45,755 according to government data.
Remarkably, more Albanians than any other nation in the world crossed the English Channel in 2022—12,301 people. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak incorrectly referred to Albania as a “secure, successful European country,” despite the fact that historically the country has not been a major source of undocumented immigrants to the UK.
In 2022, 28% of people who arrived on tiny boats were Albanians. For context, 8,633 migrants from Afghanistan (less than 19%) arrived on small boats. India contributes less than 1.5%.
According to data from the statistical office of the European Union, Eurostat, the majority of the immigrants from Albania are adult, single men, making up about 1% of the country’s working-age male population, the BBC said. The Albanian government disputes these figures.
According to UK official figures, only 50 persons arrived by small boat in 2020, rising to 800 in 2021 and a stunning 12,301 in 2022 – 240 times the number in 2020.
According to a December 2018 Gallup poll, at least 60% of all Albanian adults “want to leave the nation,” the fourth highest rate in the world after Sierra Leone (71%), Liberia (66%), and Haiti (63 per cent). It is the only European country where more than half of the people wishes to leave.
Albania is among the most impoverished nations in Europe. The World Bank reported that in 2021, it had a per capita GDP of $6,492.9, which was about a sixth of the average for the European Union ($38,411.1). The GDP of the UK per person was $45,510.3, which was more than seven times Albania’s. According to Eurostat, the proportion of Albanians at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020 was more than 50%, the highest in all of Europe.
This is a key factor in the outmigration of Albanians. According to estimates by Balkans specialist Andi Hoxhaj, almost 40% of people who leave Albania do so in search of “economic prospects,” according to the BBC. Albania’s economic state is intimately related to a number of other frequently listed factors, such as corruption.
Yet, considering Albanians to be merely economic migrants undercuts their requests for asylum, which the majority of Albanian migrants do after arriving in the UK. “They don’t trust us as legitimate asylum applicants. They erroneously believe we’ve come for a better life. Some of those things are true: there is no future for young people, the society is corrupt, violent, and full of hate. But I came here because I feared for my life, a migrant told The Guardian.
“We cannot fully explain the spike in Albanian crossings, but we know from our research that the reasons are complex and include a mixture of exploitation, cultural blood feuds, sexuality or sexual identity-related, trafficking and organised crime. The situations that have caused them to be exploited, trafficked and persecuted are generated by the dire economic situation and weak institutions and legal structures protecting vulnerable groups in Albania,” Prof Helen Stalford, project lead for a study documenting the experiences of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Albania, told The Guardian.
Migration from Albania began before the UK’s rate of increase. Albanians have historically relocated to nearby nations like Italy and Greece, but this pattern changed after the 2008 financial crisis, which severely affected these nations. Since then, the number of Albanian immigrants to northern and western Europe has steadily increased, with France and the UK being the most popular destinations.
The rise of organised crime in northern France across the Channel is connected to the development of the UK as a destination. According to Dan O’Mahoney, a former Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, “the rise has been exponential and we think that is in large part due to the fact that Albanian criminal gangs have gained a foothold in the north of France.” O’Mahoney made this statement to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2022.