Albania’s prime minister has hit out at the “disgraceful” way migrants from his country have been singled out by Home Secretary Suella Braverman and other UK ministers for political purposes.
Edi Rama, who is in Britain for talks with Rishi Sunak, said the row which erupted at the end of last year marked “a very low point” in relations but that he believes there is now a will to overcome their differences.
The Prime Minister is looking forward to “constructive discussions” with Mr Rama, Downing Street said, as he seeks assistance in tackling the issue of migrant small boats crossing the Channel following an upsurge in migrants from the country seeking to enter the UK.
Mr Sunak has always maintained a “factual, fair and compassionate” tone on the issue, his spokesman insisted.
The Cabinet minister has also said that Albanians should not be claiming asylum in the UK because they are coming from a “safe country”.
Mr Rama said he is “satisfied” at the way Mr Sunak has approached the issue, but he also made clear that Ms Braverman’s comments still rankle.
“Unfortunately we have seen ourselves and our community being singled out in this country for purposes of politics. It has been a very, very disgraceful moment for British politics,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I mean what has been spoke out by members of the Cabinet, starting with the Home Secretary, and then I mean what exactly has been developing as the singling out of our community, which is not something you do in our our civilisation and is something that does not represent Britain at all.
“This has been a very low point in our relations but there is a will to overcome it.
“We will always refuse to have this mix between some criminals and the Albanians as such because giving to the crime an ethnic seal is itself a crime.”
He added: “We do value the Albanian community in the UK and welcome any Albanians who travel to the UK legally and contribute to British society.
“However, the reality is that we are currently seeing large numbers of Albanian nationals risking their lives to make dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK and that places strain on the asylum system.”
Mr Rama’s meeting with Mr Sunak in Downing Street will be their first face-to-face talks.
The two leaders spoke last December in the wake of the controversy over Ms Braverman’s comments when they agreed to work together to close “loopholes” preventing the return to Albania of failed asylum seekers.
As well as immigration, the pair are expected to discuss boosting economic and security co-operation, Mr Sunak’s spokesman said ahead of the 4pm talks.
“They will be updating on the work they’ve taken so far, which has seen around 800 Albanian illegal migrants, almost 100 prisoners, returned to Albania since December under the existing agreement.”