TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania on Monday handed a verbal note to the British ambassador to Tirana to protest what it called a “verbal lynching” by a U.K. official in comments about Albanian immigrants in the country.
The paper expressed “concern on the last statement of the Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick with discriminatory language about Albanians.”
Over the weekend Jenrick visited a facility for migrants held pending deportation and thanked staff for their “crucial” work “to find the Albanians, to detain them, to put them on coaches, to take them to the airport and get them back to Tirana.”
“Such repeated rhetoric violates the positive spirit of bilateral cooperation confirmed in the (December) joint statement of Albanian’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,” the Albanian foreign ministry said.
On Sunday Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said on social media she was “shocked beyond words to hear a minister of state in charge of immigration use such language to secure some extra miserable votes.”
More than 10,000 Albanians illegally entered Britain by crossing the English Channel in small boats to seek asylum last year. They make up nearly a fourth of the record more than 45,000 people who made the dangerous journey across the busy waterway to the U.K.
Last week a special flight brought back dozens of Albanians deported from Britain.
After receiving only a few dozen Albanian asylum-seekers in 2020, British officials have said the large increase in 2022 may be due to increased organization by Albanian criminals operating as migrant smugglers from northern France.
Sunak and others have insisted that Albania is a “fundamentally safe country” and that most asylum claims from its citizens are unfounded. The country in the Western Balkans has launched full membership negotiations with the European Union.
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Llazar Semini, The Associated Press