Albania Channel’s migrant ‘TikTok victims’ are being tricked into thinking they can start businesses in the UK, ambassador claims, as he admits Albania IS a ‘safe country’ and can speed up returns.
Social media ads are misleading Channel Albanian migrants into thinking they can start businesses in the UK, the nation’s ambassador told parliamentarians today.
Qirjako Qirko said he had recently spoken to a bar owner who left Albania thinking he might set up a similar venue in Britain after seeing an advert on TikTok.
He also backed proposals to speed up the repatriation of Albanian immigrants who had come to Britain claiming to be victims of modern slavery and said Albania was “a safe country”.
Addressing the Home Affairs Selection Committee, he also suggested that some people had been ‘pretending’ to be victims of slavery after arriving in the UK.
Qirjako Qirko said he recently spoke to a bar owner who left Albania thinking he might set up a similar venue in Britain after seeing an advert on TikTok.
Asked if Albanians have been coming to the UK illegally for economic reasons, Mr Qirko said: “I have been in contact with some people who are requesting the services of our embassy.
‘And some of them explained that yes, we are victims of TikTok and Facebook, we came here because we thought it was easy to start a business.
‘Yesterday I was talking to a man from southern Albania. He ran a small bar and later said that he saw on TikTok that there was an opportunity to open the same type of business in the UK. But after three weeks I realized that it was not possible, so he returned to the UK.
Asked by committee chair Diana Johnson if Albanians came in small boats for economic reasons, she replied: “Yes, people come for the same reason as the Italians, the French and the Germans… to seek better opportunities. “.
He said many of those who arrived were young, adding: “People have come back because they realize the UK is not the paradise they thought it was.”
“In general, they are young people who are very easy to manipulate because of what they see on social networks. The reality when they arrive is different.’
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Albanians crossing the Channel and they accounted for a third of the 44,000 who made the journey from January to September this year.
During this period, a total of 3,432 Albanians claimed to be victims of slavery, making them the largest nationality using the Modern Slavery Law, with three quarters of these claims coming from adults.
UK officials, including the National Crime Agency, have repeatedly raised concerns that some migrants are exploiting the system by falsely claiming they are victims of slavery in order to remain in the UK while their applications are processed.
Qirko said today that “it seems that the people who come here are pretending to be victims of modern slavery.”
Asked by Tory MP Tim Loughton if it would be better if Albanian migrants who claim to be victims of slavery were returned to the UK, the ambassador said yes, before endorsing plans for a system to speed up returns.
During today’s session, Mr Qirko rejected a suggestion that Albania should pay for migrants to receive accommodation in Britain.
He also declined to comment on a suggestion that the UK should automatically reject all asylum claims from Albania because “it’s not my problem”.
Finally, he claimed that Albanian children were being bullied at British school and called for the “discrimination campaign” against his compatriots to be stopped.