Where is Albania? Is country in the EU, location on world map, population - and why are people leaving for UK

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Latest government figures claim 60% of migrants making Channel crossings in the last year were from Albania

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has come under fire regarding her comments about tackling the “invasion” of migrants. The statement came after a migrant processing centre in Dover had to be evacuated following a petrol bomb attack.

Migrants from Albania have been pushed to the forefront after Braverman referred to “Albanian criminals” when addressing Parliament on Monday 31 October. Reports from the Home Affairs Committee last week claim that “one to two percent” of the entire male population of Albania have crossed into the UK in the last year.

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So, where is Albania, is it part of the EU and why are people travelling to the UK? Here’s everything you need to know.

An aerial view of Tirana’s pyramid, a former museum that was named after late Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)An aerial view of Tirana’s pyramid, a former museum that was named after late Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)
An aerial view of Tirana’s pyramid, a former museum that was named after late Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha (Pic: AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Where is Albania?

Albania is located in south eastern Europe, with its west coast bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. The country is bordered by Montenegro to the north, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south, whilst Italy, is just 50 miles across the Adriatic Sea.

The country was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for five centuries before gaining its independence in 1912. It was invaded by Italy at the beginning of the second world war and following the aftermath became a communist country in the Soviet Union, ruled by brutal dictator Enver Hoxha. Albania gained its independence once again following the fall of communism in 1991, establishing a democracy.

The national language of Albania is Albanian with Greek being the second most popular language spoken, whilst the most popular religion of Albania is Muslim, although the country is secular and has no official state religion.

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Albania is located in south eastern Europe (Pic: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)Albania is located in south eastern Europe (Pic: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)
Albania is located in south eastern Europe (Pic: NationalWorld/Mark Hall) | NationalWorld/Mark Hall

Is Albania in the EU?

Albania applied to join the European Union in April 2009 and since 2014 it has been an official candidate for accession. Negotiations between the EU and Albania opened in 2020 and are still ongoing.

What is the population of Albania?

The population of Albania is 2,870,500 according to Worldometers, with the population of the capital Tirana estimated at 512,000.

Why are people leaving Albania?

The Guardian has reported that latest government figures claim 60% of migrants making Channel crossings in the last year were from Albania, with MPs being told that 12,000 people from the country had arrived in the UK this year so far, this compares to just 50 in 2020.

Albanian media outlet Exit News described the situation as “a perfect storm”, citing a number of factors that are driving Albanians to leave for the UK, including “poverty and the economic crisis, generational trauma, a lack of national identity, problems with crime and politics” and “traffickers that levy social media to draw in clients.”

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In an interview with 25-year-old Bajram from Kukes he explained his reasons for wanting to leave. Bajram said: “Many boys from Kukës have fled to England and say it is a better life there. Here in Kukes, there is no future for young people and no opportunity to help parents. I’ve heard that there’s better pay and living in England.”

People are also travelling to the UK from Albania in order to claim asylum, with concerns that valid cases could be overlooked due to the current situation. Reported by Huffington Post, at the Conservative Party Conference in October, Braverman stated Albanians claiming asylum for trafficking are telling “lies”, she said: “Many of them claim to be trafficked as modern slaves...the truth is that many of them are not modern slaves and their claims of being trafficked are lies.”

Thousand of migrants are currently staying at a migrant holding facility at Manston Airfield, with hundreds more moved here after a petrol-bomb attack on a processing centre in Dover (Pic: Getty Images)Thousand of migrants are currently staying at a migrant holding facility at Manston Airfield, with hundreds more moved here after a petrol-bomb attack on a processing centre in Dover (Pic: Getty Images)
Thousand of migrants are currently staying at a migrant holding facility at Manston Airfield, with hundreds more moved here after a petrol-bomb attack on a processing centre in Dover (Pic: Getty Images) | Getty Images

What has Suella Braverman said about Albania?

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has come under fire after claiming the south of England was facing an “invasion” of illegal migrants, this was after a migrant centre in Dover was attacked with petrol bombs.

Reported by the BBC, The Refugee Council called her comments “appalling, wrong and dangerous.” In a statement they said: “To describe the serious and complex situation created by the asylum crisis as an ‘invasion’ is appalling, wrong and dangerous. These are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and conflict.”

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During an address to parliament on Monday 31 October she referred to Albanian migrants directly stating: “If Labour were in charge they would be allowing all the Albanian criminals to come to this country, they would be allowing all the small boats to come to the UK, they would open our borders and totally undermine the trust of the British people in controlling our sovereignty.”

In reposnse, Labour MP Zarah Sultana took to Twitter to call out Braverman’s comments as “disgusting”. The MP for Coventry South tweeted: “Disgusted to hear Suella Braverman say there’s an “invasion on our southern coast”, just a day after a migrant detention centre was fire-bombed. Language like this – portraying migrants as “invaders” – whips-up hate & spreads division. She’s totally unfit to be Home Secretary.”

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