UK PM Sunak vows to clear backlog of asylum seekers, to return Albanians

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged Tuesday that he will work to clear a backlog of asylum-seeker applications. He also announced new measures to curb the number of migrants reaching the UK by crossing the English Channel on small boats.

Over 143,000 applications are pending and Sunak said he was adding hundreds of workers to process asylum claims and to clear the backlog by the end of 2023. The staff will also be responsible for the swift removal of Albanian migrants who reached the UK via the Channel. Notably, the number of Albanians seeking asylum in UK has touched a record high this year. 

More than 10,000 Albanians have arrived through the English Channel and make up nearly a fourth of the record 44,000 people who entered on small boats.

In 2020, the number was just a few dozens. British officials have said the large increase may be due to increased organization by Albanian criminals working in northern France.

Sunak and other officials say that Albania is a “fundamentally safe country” and there are no reasonable grounds for most of the asylum claims. The country in the Western Balkans is seeking European Union membership.

“Over the coming months, thousands of Albanians will be returned home, and we will keep going with weekly flights until all the Albanians in our backlog have been removed,” Sunak told Parliament.

He said Britain received formal assurances from Albania’s government that “they will protect genuine victims and people at risk of re-trafficking, allowing us to detain and return people to Albania with confidence”.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama had recently lashed out against the British government for focusing on Albanian migrants. He said that the UK should “stop discriminating” people from his country to hide its own migration policy failures.

Sunak also informed that the government plans to introduce new legislation early next year to ensure illegal arrivals do not remain in the country.

“The only way to come to the UK for asylum will be through safe and legal routes, and as we get a grip of illegal migration, we will create more of those routes,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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