British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged on Tuesday to clear a backlog of asylum applications as he announced new measures aimed at curbing the number of migrants arriving in the UK across the English Channel with small boats.
Sunak, who has faced growing pressure to limit the growing number of migrants arriving in small boats, said he also plans to introduce new legislation early next year to ensure that people arriving illegally cannot legally remain in the country.
The prime minister said he was adding hundreds of staff to process asylum applications and clear the backlog, estimated at more than 143,000 pending applications, by the end of next year.
More than 10,000 Albanians have arrived via this route to seek asylum this year, representing almost a quarter of the record 44,000 people who made the perilous journey across the busy waterway in small boats to the UK.
Britain recorded the arrival of a few dozen Albanian asylum seekers in 2020. Officials have said the large increase may be due to the rise of the Albanian criminal organization working in the north of France.
Sunak and others have insisted that Albania is a “fundamentally safe country” and that most of its citizens’ asylum claims are unfounded.
“Over the next few months, thousands of Albanians will return home and we will continue with weekly flights until all the Albanians we have behind have been removed,” he told Parliament.
He said Britain had received formal assurances from the Albanian government that they would “protect genuine victims and people at risk of re-trafficking, allowing us to detain and return people to Albania with confidence”.
The British government’s focus on Albanian migrants recently angered Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who said the UK should “stop discriminating” against people in his country.
Sunak added that new laws will be introduced next year to ensure that only those entering the UK via “safe and legal” routes are entitled to claim asylum.
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