LONDON: Illegal crossings by Albanians in the English Channel have dropped significantly over the past few months, a UK government source has said.
Albanians averaged around a third of all people attempting to cross into the UK via small boats from France in 2022, with at least 13,000 making the trip, up from just 800 in 2021.
During the height of the crisis in the summer, they represented 42-60 percent of all people making the journey, but that number has since dropped to around 10 percent, the source told The Times.
The drop follows months of proposals from UK government ministers to crack down on Albanian migrants, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledging to return “thousands” to their homeland.
Many migrants are also thought to have been put off making the trip following the tragic drowning in December of at least four people in the Channel, with experts suggesting harsher winter conditions were contributing to the reduction in people traveling.
“We’ve seen a marked drop in the number of Albanians coming across the Channel in small boats in recent months,” the source told The Times.
“It’s not clear exactly why, but nobody’s counting their chickens that they won’t try again — particularly as we move into the new year and spring.”
Dr. Andi Hoxhaj, a law lecturer at University College London, told The Times that the massive surge in Albanians coming to the UK in the summer was down to lower costs, as criminal gangs scaled up operations to facilitate the mass transportation of people — many coming from places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran — across the Channel, which in some cases reduced the cost of the journey by almost 90 percent, from £20,000 ($24,000) in previous years to just £2,500.
He added that the majority of Albanian migrants were traveling for economic reasons. “In some cases, what you could earn in one day here — say £200 on a construction site — is what someone might earn in one month in Albania,” said Hoxhaj.