LONDON: The UK has deported 22 Albanians via a chartered flight, amid reports in the British press that they were “illegal migrants” and “criminals.”
The heavily guarded flight was personally authorized by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the Daily Mail said. Most on board were transferred to the plane via what the newspaper described as “secure vans” from closed deportation centers where they had been held as criminals or for “illegal immigration.”
Some were vetted at the Manston migrant processing center in Kent. The short-term holding facility was designed for a maximum of 1,600 people. However, the population has swelled to almost three times that number as the government fails to process the asylum claims of thousands of people crossing from France in small boats.
Migrant charities have described conditions at the center as appalling, with reports of outbreaks of diphtheria. Braverman was last month accused of ignoring advice that those inside were being detained for unlawfully long periods.
At least one person who was due to be deported on the Wednesday flight was given a reprieve after a lawyer fought the case, saying “more consideration” was needed by the Home Office.
The plane landed at Tirana’s Mother Teresa airport on Wednesday and those onboard were transferred to an on-site police station that had been partially paid for by the UK.
All those deported had their passports stamped by Albanian authorities banning them from entering the Schengen area of Europe for three years, meaning they cannot travel to France or Belgium to attempt to cross the English Channel again.
Since the beginning of the year, 38,000 people have used small boats to cross the Channel into Britain. Ministers say that Albanians now make up about 60 percent of Channel-crossers, and the government has used several deportation flights in the last few months to send hundreds back to their home country.
Braverman, who was sacked by the former Prime Minister Liz Truss for compromising security only to be reappointed days later by Rishi Sunak under a new government, last week caused fury by calling the Channel crossings an “invasion.”