Wednesday, 8 February, 2023

Albania demands UK apology over migrants coverage

Albania demands UK apology over migrants coverage

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Albania's UK ambassador demanded an apology Wednesday for an anti-migrant "campaign" in right-wing British media following hostile remarks by a top minister.

Ethnic-Albanian children are getting bullied in British schools because of the media coverage, Qirjako Qirko told a committee of MPs.

"I would like to take this opportunity to ask that this campaign of discrimination against Albanians living here in (the) UK should stop," he said.

"Everyone who is responsible for this activity should apologise," Qirko added, during at-times testy questioning about the issue of boatloads of migrants crossing the Channel.

Relations between London and Tirana have been strained over recent months as the UK government attempts to get to grips with the Channel crossings.

More than 40,000 migrants have made the often-dangerous journey in small boats so far in 2022, with Albanians now the largest single group.

Many are economic migrants but falsely say they are victims of modern slavery and claim asylum, Qirko conceded, while hitting back at one Conservative MP's allegations that Albanians were coming to engage in organised crime.

"The solution is legal migration in the framework of British legislation," the ambassador said, urging the UK to open up legal routes for its own good, with more than one million vacancies for jobs currently.

A week ago, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his counterpart in Tirana Edi Rama agreed in phone talks to do more to stem the flow of Albanians.

Sunak "acknowledged the positive contribution of the Albanian community to life in the UK", Downing Street said, after Home Secretary Suella Braverman infuriated Tirana -- and the UN rights chief -- for describing the arrivals as an "invasion".

The right-wing interior minister had previously blamed "Albanian criminals" for masterminding the influx.