Most Albanian citizens forcibly sent back home from the United Kingdom this year were convicted of crimes there and were paid by the British government to return home.
This is what the BBC reports, after speaking to dozens of people on deportation flights from the UK to Albania last month. They confirmed that some prisoners were offered 1,500 pounds to leave.
Some were offered money in return for agreeing to deportation, and were released from prison before serving their minimum sentence, under an existing scheme used for foreign offenders, writes the BBC.
Albanian police confirmed to BBC journalist Lucy Williamson, that a majority of those forcibly returned this year were convicted of crimes in the UK.
One of the returned contacted by the BBC confessed that he was offered 1,500 pounds in financial support to return home, under a separate program called the Facilitated Return Scheme (aside from the Early Release Scheme, used for foreign prisoners of all nationalities). This scheme, according to a UK government document, is “a financial incentive” offered to foreign prisoners “on the proviso that they co-operate with deportation and waive their right to appeal against it”.
Asked by the BBC, the Home Office did not say how many Albanians have been deported under the Early Release Scheme since the start of last year, and how many had received financial incentives to co-operate.
However, deportation does not keep them from coming back.
Speaking to the Albanian Interior Minister Bledar Çuçi on what the country does to prevent recent deportees simply returning to the UK, the BBC quotes him saying “If there are people with criminal records, then police will be on alert. But in general, the people who return are free citizens in Albania.”
Albanian police have stepped up checks at the country’s border crossings, to catch blacklisted deportees trying to slip across. The increased co-operation with the UK has coincided with a drop in the number of Albanians arriving in small boats (with only 29 detected in the first few months of the year).
However, that drop is likely to be seasonal and both governments will face the first real test of their approach to tackling irregular migration with the winter weather now easing, reports the BBC.
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