All eligible Albanian prisoners to be deported, Rishi Sunak and Edi Rama agree
All eligible Albanian criminals in UK prisons are to be deported to complete their sentences in their homeland under a deal agreed between the countries’ two prime ministers on Thursday.
In a statement after talks at Downing Street, Rishi Sunak and Edi Rama said the deportation of hundreds of prisoners will be fast-tracked after a joint UK-Albanian team has ensured, by the end of April, that Albania’s jails have the capacity and appropriate conditions to receive them.
There are more than 1,500 Albanians convicted of offences in the UK who are held in English and Welsh jails, making them the largest group of foreign nationals. Under the agreement, Albanian offenders can be transferred up to 270 days before their release date to serve the remainder of their sentence in Albania.
The two leaders also agreed to “take forward” their “shared priority” to tackle illegal migration and people smuggling gangs after Mr Rama had earlier criticised Britain for singling out Albanian migrants for political purposes. He said a “few rotten apples” did not define a nation.
Speaking alongside Sunak in Downing Street ahead of their talks, the Albanian Prime Minister said he wanted to shake off stereotypes that suggested all Albanians were criminals.
He told Mr Sunak that his visit to Downing Street was "an opportunity to underline that just as all Britons are not James Bond or Mr Bean, not all Albanians are some characters out of Taken".
Earlier, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "Unfortunately we have seen ourselves and our community being singled out in this country for purposes of politics. It has been a very, very disgraceful moment for British politics.
"I mean what has been spoken out by members of the cabinet, starting with the Home Secretary… which is not something you do in our civilisation and is something that does not represent Britain at all.
"This has been a very low point in our relations but there is a will to overcome it. We will always refuse to have this mix between some criminals and the Albanians as such because giving to the crime an ethnic seal is itself a crime."
However, Mr Rama said he believed Mr Sunak had set relations on a new path towards cooperating on issues that concerned both countries. “On the other hand I am very satisfied with your Prime Minister," he said.
"We have set up a clear path towards tackling together whatever has to be excluded from our relations and from our world of law and justice but at the same time making sure that some rotten apples do not define the Albanian community here and our relations."
In their joint statement after the meeting, they said they had "discussed increased operational cooperation, including joint upstream communications to deter people from travelling in the first place, and further agreements on data sharing and passports".
"The leaders welcomed progress to date, with around 800 illegal migrants returning to Albania since December, action on organised crime and new UK guidance designating Albania a safe country," the statement said.