Up to 2% of Albanian male population has travelled to UK in small boats, top border force official says – Yahoo Singapore News

Up to 2% of the adult male population of Albania has crossed to the UK in small boats, according to the government's clandestine channel threat commander.
Dan O'Mahoney revealed the staggering figure to MPs on the home affairs committee on Wednesday, saying 12,000 Albanian nationals had crossed the Channel in small boats in this year alone.
More than 38,000 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in more than 900 boats in 2022 to date, compared with 28,526 last year.
Earlier this year, former home secretary Priti Patel claimed that around 60% of people arriving in the UK on small boats this summer were Albanian.
However, fact-checking charity Full Fact found that data to back this claim up was not available, though they concluded the figure was correct for certain days during the summer.
MPs also heard that 93% of the 38,000 who arrived on small boats in 2022 so far have applied for asylum in the UK – down from the total figure of 98% in 2021.
However, there are currently huge delays in processing applications, with the Home Office only processing 4% of asylum claims by people who crossed the Channel in 2021 so far.
Of the 4% completed, 85% were granted refugee status or another protection status.
Dan Hobbs, director of asylum, protection and enforcement at the Home Office, said there is a “challenge in processing asylum claims in a timely way at present”.
The delay has had a knock-on effect in terms of the cost to taxpayers, with £5.6m being spent every day to house asylum seekers in hotels.
This figure does not include the cost to house relocated Afghans in hotels, which costs an additional £1.2m per day.
The total £6.8m a day figure on housing asylum seekers in hotels – over £2m more than the government said it was spending in February – could continue to rise, MPs at the committee were told.
Watch: Channel crossings continue as more migrants arrive in Kent
Officials also revealed the interception rate made by French police of migrants attempting the journey across the Channel has fallen.
O’Mahoney told the committee in 2021 the interception rate for French police stopping migrants trying to cross the Channel was 50% and this year it has dropped to 42.5%.
He accepted this was a lower percentage but stressed it was a “much, much bigger number”, telling how French authorities had stopped 28,000 migrants crossing the Channel and intercepted and destroyed 1,072 boats so far this year.
He added: “It is correct to say that migrants can attempt to cross on more than one occasion and therefore those 28,000 migrants may not be individual, different migrants, so it’s 28,000 attempts.”
In France migrants are not detained and processed after being caught attempting to cross the Channel. Mr O’Mahoney said French laws make it “difficult for French officers to take any action in that way”.
Concerns were also raised about conditions at the Manston Airport site in Kent, which is meant to be a short-term holding facility to process migrants when they arrive in the UK.
MPs heard the number of people arriving was “outstripping” the capacity of the site and some were being held there for as long as a month, compared with the 24 hours intended.
The total cost of the UK’s asylum system has topped £2bn a year, with the highest number of claims for two decades and record delays for people awaiting a decision.
Home Office spending on asylum rose by £756m, from around £1.4bn in 2020/21 to £2.1bn in 2021/22 – the highest on record and more than double the amount spent in 2019/20, with officials struggling to keep up with the number of new applications.
More than 38,000 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel in more than 900 boats in 2022 to date, compared with 28,526 last year.
In October alone, at least 5,000 have made the journey, according to provisional government figures, but no crossings were recorded by the Ministry of Defence on Monday or Tuesday.
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Rishi Sunak on Tuesday became Britain's third prime minister this year and the first person of colour to lead the former imperial power, vowing to overcome an economic crisis provoked by the "mistakes" of Liz Truss's calamitous 49-day tenure. In his first order of business, Sunak retained Jeremy Hunt as chancellor of the exchequer, bidding to keep financial markets on side after Truss's budget plans shocked investors, and also retained her foreign and defence ministers, among others. Sunak, a practising Hindu who at 42 is Britain's youngest leader since 1812, became the ruling Conservatives' new leader on Monday after a prior stint as chancellor himself. Addressing the nation in Downing Street Tuesday shortly after his appointment by King Charles III, Sunak said the country faced "profound economic crisis". "I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government's agenda," Sunak vowed, capping the latest extraordinary twist in UK politics following Boris Johnson's demise in July. – 'Mistakes' – Truss — chosen by Tory members over Sunak in the summer to replace Johnson — left office as the UK's shortest-serving premier in history. The 47-year-old wished the new leader "every success", noting she remained "more convinced than ever" that Britain needs to be "bold" in confronting the challenges it faces. Sunak countered that, though Truss was motivated by a well-intentioned desire to kick-start growth, her tax-cutting measures were "mistakes nonetheless". "And I have been elected as leader of my party and your prime minister in part to fix them," he said. "The government I lead will not leave the next generation… with a debt to settle that we were too weak to pay ourselves," he added, helping to drive the pound more than one percent higher against the dollar. Sunak, a wealthy descendant of immigrants from India and East Africa, secured the top job after rival contender Penny Mordaunt failed to garner enough nominations from Tory MPs and Johnson dramatically aborted a comeback attempt. Breaking his silence, Johnson offered his "full and wholehearted support" to Sunak — having privately blamed his ex-minister for toppling him in July. Sunak in turn praised Johnson, but in a nod to the many scandals that brought Johnson down, vowed his own premiership would offer "integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level". – Cabinet continuity – In some of the other cabinet retentions aimed at stability, Sunak kept James Cleverly as foreign secretary, Ben Wallace in the defence brief and Kemi Badenoch in international trade. Just days after she left Truss's cabinet, hardline right-winger Suella Braverman was re-appointed as interior minister, in charge of policing and immigration control. Grant Shapps, who had briefly replaced Braverman, was named business secretary with partial oversight of climate policy, instead of Johnson loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg. Sunak brought close ally Dominic Raab back as deputy prime minister and justice secretary, and veteran cabinet member Michael Gove to tackle the country's entrenched regional inequality. Mordaunt remains in a post overseeing government business in parliament, which may disappoint the ambitious centrist who had been tipped for a more senior role. The line-up "reflects a unified party and a cabinet with significant experience, ensuring that at this uncertain time there is continuity at the heart of government," a Downing Street source said. The new top team is set to meet early Wednesday, British media said, before Sunak faces his first weekly face-off with opposition parties at "Prime Minister's Questions" in parliament. – Foreign calls – In his first call with a foreign leader, Sunak told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Britain would continue its "steadfast support" following Russia's invasion. He also spoke to US President Joe Biden, who had earlier hailed his appointment as the first British-Indian prime minister as "groundbreaking" and "pretty outstanding". "President Biden said that the UK remains America's closest ally, and the Prime Minister agreed on the huge strength of the relationship," a Downing Street spokeswoman said. European leaders offered their own congratulations, while Irish premier Micheal Martin reminded Sunak of their "shared responsibility" to safeguard peace in Northern Ireland following tensions under Johnson and Truss. Domestically, Labour leader Keir Starmer praised Sunak on "making history as the first British-Asian PM". But he reiterated accusation the Tories "have crashed the economy" and that the public needs "a say on Britain's future". Sunak has rebuffed opposition calls for a snap general election after becoming the latest leader who lacks a direct mandate from the electorate. Pollster Ipsos said that 62 percent of British voters want an election by the end of the year. Voters in London Tuesday spelled out the scale of his challenge. "The whole country is in shambles at the moment, he has got to make a difference, if he doesn't there's going to be riots," insurance adviser Helen Gorman told AFP. bur-jj/ah
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Many Indians are delighting in the elevation of Rishi Sunak — a practising Hindu with Punjabi roots — as British prime minister, in a milestone year for the subcontinental country's relationship with its former colonial ruler. Sunak took charge Tuesday as Britain's third premier this year with his Conservative Party floundering in the polls and daunting challenges ahead. The 42-year-old was born and raised in Southampton, but his appointment as his country's first prime minister of colour has been cheered by Indians who still consider him a son of the soil. "I am extremely happy," Krishna Kumar, an Indian IT worker, told AFP in the capital New Delhi. "Great Britain is a country which ruled India for more than 300 years — now a person of Indian origin is going to rule UK." Sunak's parents were born into the Indian diaspora in east Africa, and trace their heritage back to pre-independence Punjab in northern British India. He is married to Indian-born Akshata Murty, whose father co-founded IT giant Infosys. India celebrated 75 years since the end of British rule in August, just weeks before becoming the world's fifth-largest economy when its GDP overtook the United Kingdom's, according to IMF figures. Colonial subjects would never have imagined such a "big development" as a man of Indian heritage taking charge of Britain, said Basavaraj Bommai, the chief minister of southern Karnataka state. "The wheel of fortune has turned completely," he told reporters on Monday. Sunak's ascent has been the subject of wall-to-wall television coverage in India, animating discussion during the usually lethargic Diwali holiday season. "Indian son rises over the Empire — History comes full circle in Britain," read a news banner splashed on broadcaster NDTV. Sunak takes charge of the UK as his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, is accelerating efforts to scrap symbolic vestiges of the colonial years. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) espouses a muscular Hindu nationalism that champions historical figures who opposed foreign domination and influence. In September, Modi inaugurated a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose, an independence hero venerated for taking up arms against the British, but controversial for his collaboration with Nazi Germany's war machine. The unveiling ceremony took place just hours before Britain announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the statue itself replaces one of Britain's King George V torn down nearly half a century ago. The same month, Modi unveiled a new naval ensign that removed the prominent St George's cross — the national emblem of England — from the existing flag. – 'Position of strength' – Modi congratulated Sunak on Monday and said he looked forward to the opportunity to "transform our historic ties into a modern partnership". Sunak's first order of business with India will be to finalise a delayed free trade deal, a pact that both countries had hoped to sign before Monday's Diwali festivities. The agreement is important for Britain as it seeks alternative markets after leaving the European Union, but talks have reportedly snagged over fears among Conservatives that it would lead to an increase in immigration. Sunak's appointment could be an added hindrance to the deal, said Harsh V Pant, a professor at King's College London's India Institute. "Being a person of Indian origin, he'd not like to be seen as being soft on India. He will have to negotiate from a position of strength," Pant told AFP. His ability to push the deal over the objections of his party's rank and file would be an "important benchmark" for the success of his premiership, Pant added. The new leader already faces the uphill task of uniting a party riven with divisions and infighting — and still reeling from the brief but calamitous tenure of his predecessor Liz Truss. Despite Indians hailing Sunak's appointment as a historic moment for both countries, the political and economic instability he inherits has muted expectations for his tenure. "This is the third prime minister in a year," Himanshu Singh, an engineer, told AFP. "So we don't know how many hours, or how many days or how many weeks he's going to be there." arc-gle/stu/lb
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The United Nations said on Wednesday that the humanitarian response to the crisis in Somalia where a historic drought is threatening famine has gathered pace but warned the situation remained "dire".
In his first full day as Britain's prime minister, Rishi Sunak on Wednesday delayed a crunch budget and rebuffed renewed demands for an early general election as he began trying to rebuild the Conservatives' poll standing.
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