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The number of Albanian migrants locked up in British jails has almost doubled in four years, analysis by The Epoch Times has found.
According to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures, almost 1,400 Albanian foreign nationals are currently in custody in England and Wales—compared to just over 800 in 2019.
Those from the Balkans now make up the biggest number of all foreign inmates in the UK’s soaring prison population, and fall just second to the biggest overall nationality—British prisoners.
The figures can be revealed just days after the government announced it was sending 200 jailed Albanian prisoners home to serve the rest of their sentence—amid concerns that UK prisons are nearing capacity.
Offenders handed terms of four years or more will return to their native country to serve the remainder, MoJ said last week.
The arrangement will also see Britain provide support to Albania to help modernise its own prison system, according to the department.
Earlier this month, justice minister Lord Bellamy, KC, told Parliament that jails are “quite tight” and at 99 percent capacity.
Speaking to peers, he said the government is concerned about the increasing prison population and how it is nearing its upper limit.
The MoJ said the new deal will “free up” jail space in England and Wales and double the number of offenders without UK citizenship removed annually.
Small Boat Surge
Data made available through the MoJ and Prison Service’s joint “Offender Management Statistics” report (pdf) show that as of March 2019, 817 Albanian prisoners accounted for 9 percent of the foreign national prison population in England and Wales.
Of the 9,079 foreign nationals locked up, 1,604 were recorded as being on remand, 6,727 serving sentences and 748 listed as being held for “non-criminal” reasons, including those detained in immigration detention facilities.
The report stated that the figures made up just 11 percent of the overall prison population, and a decrease of 3 percent in the number of foreign nationals in custody the year prior.
It added, “The most common nationalities after British Nationals in prisons are Albanian (9 percent of the FNO [Foreign National Offenders] prison population), Polish (9 percent), Romanian (8 percent), Irish (8 percent) and Jamaican (5 percent).”
According to the most recent figures, 10,148 foreign national offenders are currently in jails in England and Wales.
Of those, 3,132 were on remand, 6,405 serving sentences and 611 for “non-criminal” reasons.
The report (pdf) stated the statistics represented 12 per cent of the total prison population—with Albanians accounting for 14 percent of foreign national offenders.
The report stated the overall figure “is largely driven by the 19 percent increase in the FNO remand population which contributed more than two and a half times as many individuals as the 3 percent increase in the sentenced FNO population.”
Last year, a record 12,301 Albanians reached the UK on small boats, representing a quarter of the total of 45,755.
According to recent Home Office figures—released to Albanian news outlet “Top Channel”—over 12,800 Albanians who entered the UK illegally have breached strict immigration bail conditions.
The figures—released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI)—make up a quarter of all bail breaches by illegal migrants from January 2022 to April this year.
According to the government figures, a total of 44,957 people were recorded as breaking immigration bail in Britain within the 15-month period.
Of those numbers, 12,842 were Albanian nationals who reached Britain by small boats crossing the English Channel or other illegal means.
Speed up Offender Removal
On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that 80 Albanian migrants have been sentenced to 130 years in jail in the first four months of this year alone, as the scale of the crime wave from the surge in Channel crossings.
The newspaper claimed the Albanian offenders were convicted for a range of serious offences including murder, manslaughter, rape and violent disorder.
The report stated that the cumulative total of 130 years in jail will cost the UK taxpayer at least £20 million pounds to house each offender for the allotted time, at an average cost of £57,000 per prisoner per year.
However, MoJ figures, released alongside Justice Secretary Alex Chalk’s Albania Prisoner Transfer Deal announcement, states it costs the government £40,000 a year to house each prisoner in England and Wales.
Chalk said the new deal will “free up” jail space and double the number of offenders without UK citizenship removed annually.
Between April 27, 2021 and April 27, 2023, the government repatriated 112 inmates under prisoner transfer agreements.
Speaking last week, Chalk said: “I am grateful to my Albanian counterpart, Ulsi Manja, for his efforts to shape our growing partnership on justice issues.
“The public expects that foreign criminals should serve their sentences overseas—not in our prisons at the expense of the taxpayer.
“This deal will speed up the removal of these offenders and give victims confidence that serious criminals will continue to face justice and spend the remainder of their sentence behind bars.”
Ulsi Manja, the Albanian justice minister, said the new arrangement demonstrates “the strong partnership” between the UK and Albanian governments.
He added, “At its core, every Albanian convict in the United Kingdom shall be given the opportunity to serve the remaining sentence in Albania, near their families, while we also increase our efforts to ensure the modernisation of the Albanian penitentiary system.”
The total cost of the deal for the MoJ is expected to be in the region of £8 million over two years, equating to £32 per prisoner per day, compared to £109 per day to house them in prisons in England and Wales.
Home Office funding of around £4.4 million will also support the arrangement, the MoJ said.