Downing Street showed “significant signs of regret and embarrassment” about the rhetoric ministers are using to describe Albanians, according to the country’s prime minister.

Edi Rama his ex Home Secretary Soella Braverman has been accused of fueling xenophobic attacks Having spoken in parliament about an “invasion” of asylum seekers and “Albanian criminals” when she described the small boat crisis.

But speaking to Sky News at the end of his visit to the UK – which included a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – Mr Rama said progress had been made in language, which he hoped would not be repeated.

He said that “British/Albanian relations have touched the lowest point in history since our exit from communism because of this rhetoric that has put the Albanian community in Britain under very, very hard pressure.”

“I must say that finally, on the Downing Street side, we have been heard and there are not only words, but also actions in setting up a joint task force to crack down on criminal networks, something that Albania has of course always wanted.

“While we have very significant signs of regret and embarrassment, that’s enough, let’s say, at this point. I very much hope that this won’t happen again and that the Albanian community will be truly honored here.”

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Albanians protest Braverman’s comments

More than a third of the people who crossed the Channel into the UK in the first nine months of last year were from Albania, according to government figures.

Under Mr. Sunak Five-point plan to stop illegal immigration Launched in December, an agreement was struck with Mr Rama to include Border Force officials in Tirana, Albania’s capital, as part of a package of measures to limit canal crossings between people from the country.

Albania’s prime minister said it was a “trend” in countries emerging from communism to see the UK as a place to go for a better life, but without a visa route, people were coming by boat and seeking asylum instead.

“I’m not here to question the sovereignty and mandate of the British government to set a frontier policy…but that’s what it’s all about – economic reasons to come and get a job and build a future in a place that has always been the shining city on the hill.”

“They are claiming asylum because there is no other way. They are not part of the free labor market. So it is all about dreaming and hoping to get what they imagine is best for their life now and without waiting many more years for this to happen in Albania.”

Britain's Rishi Sunak met his Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama, on a visit to Downing Street - Photo 10
Rishi Sunak met his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama on a visit to Downing Street – Photo: No. 10

Mr Rama called on the UK government to “never forget that the Albanians here are doing so well and are helping and contributing to making Britain a better place”.

He added: “Albanians here work in construction companies, Albanians who nurse old people, Albanians who cook for you – so I should say improve British kitchens – and they sing too, not to mention academics and students. It was unfair for them to be put under such pressure.”

“But at the same time, they are a very strong base on which to build something very important.”

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The Albanian prime minister urged ministers to “separate crime fighting” from those looking for work, adding: “It’s about having a visa system that gives access to people to apply regularly and process them without taking over the channel. They are here to work and come here to showcase their skills.”

“This is a combination of factors that are slowly starting to come into play and I am sure this issue will be resolved.

“But I’m not sure that closing the borders and not letting people in is what’s best for the British economy. But that’s not for me to decide, that’s a matter for the British people.”

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