Man's drug arrest for carrying tea shows UK has lack of respect, says Albanian PM

·2 min read
green tea
green tea

The Albanian prime minister has accused Britain of persecuting and disrespecting Albanian immigrants after one of his countrymen was wrongly arrested over a suspected stash of cannabis that turned out to be mountain tea.

Edi Rama took up the case of Agim Agaj, 53, who was strip-searched and held for 15 hours after his herbal tea leaves were spotted when his van was stopped by police in Dorset.

Officers who mistakenly thought it was marijuana held Mr Agaj on suspicion of possession with intent to supply, handcuffed him and locked him up in police cells before he was finally released without charge.

In a Twitter thread, Mr Rama, who visited Britain for the first time last month for face-to-face talks with the Prime Minister, said: “What I am unsure of is how my friend Rishi Sunak would handle it if a British national were arrested in Albania for carrying English tea and accused of being a drug dealer!

“This situation is disheartening and Agim’s persecutors should be held accountable.

“Albania is fully committed to providing whatever is necessary for a successful fight against criminal networks. However, if Britain cannot even demonstrate respect for the Albanian community through actions instead of words, how can we expect successful cooperation between our governments?”

Edi Rama visited Britain for the first time last month for face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Getty
Edi Rama visited Britain for the first time last month for face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Getty

Under an agreement with Albania in December, the UK set up a joint taskforce to deter and disrupt illegal migration, pledged to share information to combat migrants and trafficking, and negotiated fast-track returns of migrants who entered the UK illegally.

Around 12,000 Albanians reached the UK last year on small boats, accounting for 28 per cent of the record 46,000 migrants who crossed the Channel.

In return for cooperation to tackle the illegal trade, the Albanian government last month also demanded an amnesty for all “honest” Albanians who are illegally in the UK without visas as part of the agreement to combat people-smuggling gangs and illegal migration.

Mr Rama has previously criticised Britain for branding Albanians as criminals, describing it as an “ethnic seal” that was itself a crime and that a “few rotten apples” did not define a nation.

Mr Agim was held in a cell on Saturday night in Weymouth, Dorset, and was interviewed the following day before being released without charge because there was no evidence.

Dorset Police said: “A search of the vehicle was carried out and it was reported that a plastic container was located containing what appeared to be a herbal substance that officers believed may have been illegal drugs.”

The force added: “Further enquiries were carried out.

“It was confirmed that the substance in the container was not an illegal drug and the man was released without charge.”