Albanian migrants living in the UK have accused MPs of making them “scapegoats” for a “broken” immigration system. Tirana officials have also scolded Suella Braverman for describing illegal Channel crossings into the UK as an “invasion”.
Around 40,000 people have already made the crossing this year, the highest number on record.
While estimates vary, some suggest as many as 60 percent of these migrants are from Albania.
This has fuelled a national discussion over how such numbers can – or cannot – be managed, and how best the Government can send back those who have no legal right to reside here.
Further concern has been sparked of Albanian drug gangs using the migrant camps of northern France as recruitment grounds and offering to cover the costs of crossing the Channel for those prepared to work in the UK drugs industry.
A group of Albanians living in the UK have now insisted they moved to the UK for a better life and to work hard – not to claim benefits or to act as “gangsters or thieves”.
Some also accused Government Ministers of trying to “scapegoat” them for problems that should, instead, be pinned on Westminster.
Ervis Abdullaj, 39, owner of the 01 Café Bar in Oxford, told MailOnline: “Albanians are coming here for a better life. What’s wrong with that? Lots of people have come from other countries but nobody is complaining about them.
“Albania is a beautiful country but there is a lot of corruption and violence there. Many Albanians are fleeing terrible conditions and their lives are in danger.
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“There might not be a war going on there but it’s not a safe country.”
He added that while he arrived in the UK legally, he could understand why others might make the illegal crossing, and noted: “I work almost 18 hours a day and like many Albanians in the UK want to have a good life for myself. The British Government is just trying to blame us for its problems.
“It’s not our fault that it can’t get its act together and do something about the migrant crisis. So it’s easier to pin it all on the Albanians.”
Another, Eddie Terziu, 37, a builder originally from Elbasan, said he came to the UK because there was no work in Albania.
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He said: “We are not criminals, we are not gangsters. We are not asking for benefits. We work for our money.”
Esad, 24, admitted that he made the illegal crossing and appeared again to use finances to justify his actions: “I came last year on a boat. I paid a gang in Albania and they made all the arrangements.
“A lot of people want to come because life is not easy in Albania. It’s hard to find a job and if you do have one, you’re lucky to make £200 per month.”
Responding to a defence of Ms Braverman’s use of the word “invasion” earlier this week, Prince Leka of Albania wrote in a post on Twitter that the illegal entry of his countrymen and women in the UK facilitated “an improvement to British society”.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has also accused the UK Government of using migrants to “excuse policy failures”.
He wrote in a post on Twitter: “Targeting Albanians (as some shamefully did when fighting for Brexit) as the cause of Britain’s crime and border problems makes for easy rhetoric but ignores hard fact.”