Albanians should be barred from claiming asylum in the UK as they are coming from a “demonstrably safe” country, the Immigration Minister has said.
Robert Jenrick said such individuals should be “excluded from the right to claim asylum” as he warned that current levels of migration into the UK were “unsustainable”.
His comments came as the Home Office declined to comment on a report in The Sunday Times that ministers are working on legislation which could ban asylum seekers who enter by illegal routes from ever settling in the UK.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman was reported to be urging Rishi Sunak to back plans to put every illegal migrant into detention on arrival.
The Government is under intense pressure from Conservative MPs to get to grips with the issue of people traffickers using small boats to ferry migrants across the Channel.
Albanians account for over a third of the 33,000 Channel migrants who arrived in the first nine months of this year, and Mr Jenrick said they were now the “number one priority”.
Last week Mr Sunak held his first talks with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in which they agreed to close “loopholes” preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers, while Mr Jenrick suggested the Government was looking to go further.
“Albania is a a demonstrably safe country. It is very hard to see how an Albanian should be able to successfully claim asylum here in the UK,” he told GB News.
“We have a returns agreement, which was signed a year ago, and a thousand Albanians have gone back already. We are looking at what we can do there.
“We are also pursuing the diplomatic channels. I think you have to watch this space.”
Mr Jenrick warned that illegal migration was likely to be an issue for “many years to come” and said ministers were agreed that overall levels of people entering the country were too high.
“We can’t have a million people entering the country in a single year and net migration of half a million – it’s just not sustainable,” he said.
One area “ripe for reform”, he said, was the rules on student visas and the number of dependents they can bring into the country while they are studying.
“What I’m concerned about is there are people coming to universities here as a backdoor way of bringing their families into the UK and staying here for a prolonged period,” he said.
“A very significant number of people use this as a route to a life in the UK. This is a big driver of net migration.”
He said they were also determined to reduce the “huge backlog” in asylum cases, suggesting they could adopt a “lighter touch process” with those coming from countries for which there are “extremely high grant rates”.
“There are some countries where we have extremely high grant rates and so it would be sensible to say that they have perhaps a lighter touch process than those where it’s highly likely that they’ll be rejected, because we’ve got to get the backlog down,” he said.