The British government has been paying convicted Albanian criminals to go back to their home country — even commuting the sentences of those currently incarcerated — yet many of those deported intend to return to Britain within days.
The findings are from an investigative report by the BBC into the effectiveness of the U.K. government’s deportation schemes after Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s pledged to ramp up the expulsion of foreign nationals living in Britain illegally.
Following a joint cooperation agreement between Albanian and U.K. authorities last December, the Home Office recently announced that over 1,000 people have been returned to the Balkan nation on deportation flights. Approximately half of these have voluntarily returned while others, including failed asylum seekers and convicted criminals, have been forcibly removed.
The BBC interviewed several occupants of these deportation flights to learn more about the circumstances surrounding their removal and learned that some individuals who had been incarcerated in Britain had been offered up to £1,500 and a reduced sentence in order to leave.
One Albanian convict, who spoke with the broadcaster on the condition of anonymity, revealed he was released from prison just two years into a six-year sentence for drug offenses. Upon arriving back in Albania, he will be a free man.
“The immigration officer came to see us. They ask if you want to go back or stay in the U.K. They explained that if you go back, they take one year off from your sentence,” he told the BBC reporter. The individual would have been eligible for a parole hearing after serving three years of his sentence.
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Yet despite the generous incentives to leave Britain, some of those taking the taxpayer-funded handout plan to return within a matter of days, and they claim there is nothing the U.K. authorities can do to stop them.
The public broadcaster spoke with two other men on the deportation flights who said they would be returning to Britain imminently.
One individual revealed he had already traveled back and forth to the U.K. on three occasions, telling the interviewer: “It’s not a problem for me. I’ll go back whenever I want.”
The Albanian government has recently committed to implementing further border checks to catch deportees attempting to return to Britain, but in reality, there is little desire by the authorities to fulfill such obligations.
“It’s not possible to put a chip in everyone to follow where they go,” said Albania’s Interior Minister Bledar Çuçi. “If there are people with criminal records, especially in trafficking, then police will be on alert. But in general, the people who return are free citizens in Albania,” he added.
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The influx of illegal Albanian immigrants heading for Britain over the past two years has caused tension between the Albanian government and the U.K.’s governing Conservative party, which has vowed to combat the rise in illegal immigration.
With a record number of migrants arriving by small boat across the English Channel from France last year, reports revealed that 4 in 10 of all new arrivals were from Albania. The majority of these newcomers immediately claim asylum. This provides them with protection and a requirement to accommodate and feed them at the taxpayers’ expense while their application is considered, a process that, with the current backlog, can easily take over two years.
Albanian citizens have the right to travel freely to countries such as France and Belgium, which provide the perfect location to enter Britain in small boats via the English Channel.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has described the assault on England’s southern shore as an “invasion” and insisted that Britain should not be a safe port for Albanian criminals. Her remarks were condemned by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama as “very, very disgraceful” and had contributed to “a very low point” in the relations between the two countries.