LONDON: UK Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick has been accused of “shamefully” declaring “open season” on Albanians after publishing a video outlining attempts to detain illegal migrants from the Balkan country, The Times reported.
The clip, released on Jan. 13, showed Jenrick at a UK Home Office removal center inspecting a weekly deportation flight to the Albanian capital Tirana.
In the video, he said: “I’ve been meeting the fantastic staff who are working round the clock to find the Albanians, to detain them, to put them onto coaches, to take them to the airport, and get them back to Tirana.”
In response to the clip, Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhacka accused Jenrick of using inflammatory language to “lynch” Albanians and said he was “shamefully” vote-seeking.
“Shocked beyond words to hear a minister of state in charge of immigration use such language for some more miserable votes,” she added.
The video was a “verbal lynching of a whole nation in language that sounds like the minister is declaring open season on Albanians,” Xhacka said.
She further described Jenrick’s comments as “a shameful singling out of a community from a minister of a great democracy that brings back horrifying memories with an unbearable brutality.”
The row follows fresh attempts by the UK to curb the numbers of Albanian migrants arriving on British shores, with more than 13,000 crossing the English Channel last year.
In late 2022, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched a bilateral deal with Albania to allow the fast-track return of migrants to Tirana within 31 days of their arrival in the UK.
But the deportation featured in Jenrick’s video was not part of the fast-track scheme, which has yet to be put into action.
In response to Xhacka’s criticism, a UK government spokesperson said: “We value our Albanian community in the UK and continue to welcome Albanians who travel here legally and contribute significantly to British society.
“However last year we saw large numbers of Albanians risking their lives and making dangerous and unnecessary journeys to the UK through illegal means, and this is placing further strain on our asylum system.”