Albania: Wrong for Britain to blame Tirana on migrants

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s prime minister said Tuesday that Britain is carrying out a “calculated attack” on his country by blaming it for the increased number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

Edi Rama said that the new U.K. Cabinet was scapegoating Albanians because it “has gone down a blind alley with its new policy resulting from Brexit.”

Britain has seen more than 40,000 migrants crossing the Channel this year, a record high. A third of them are Albanians.

The U.K. and France signed an agreement Monday that will see more police patrol beaches in northern France in an attempt to stop migrants from trying to cross in small boats.

U.K. interior minister Suella Braverman has described the arrivals as an “invasion on our southern coast” also riling Albania by blaming Albanian criminal gangs for “abusing” Britain’s asylum system and modern slavery laws.

Braverman drew widespread criticism for those words last week and also sparked Rama to respond harshly, blasting her words as “crazy narrative” and attempts to “cover up for totally failed policies on borders and on crime.”

“The fact there came no apology shows it was a calculated attack," he added Tuesday.

Rama said that visa liberalization would help lower the number of people arriving illegally, but the U.K. government's policy is "completely the reverse.”

“The British government has launched a blind alley road with its new policy that has resulted from Brexit,” he said at a news conference.

Last week, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said it is “extremely grateful” for Albania’s cooperation on managing migration.

Sunak has described the migrant crisis as a “serious and escalating problem.” He acknowledged that “not enough” asylum claims are being processed, but maintained his Conservative government was getting a grip on the situation.

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Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration and Llazar Semini at https://twitter.com/lsemini

Llazar Semini, The Associated Press