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Labour Vows to Fast Track Asylum Cases From ‘Safe Countries’ Like Albania

Labour has said the party wants to fast track asylum claims made by people from countries designated as being safe—such as Albania—to clear the backlogs.

Speaking to broadcasters on Friday, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said a fast track system is recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and would speed up deportation and “make sure the asylum system is about helping people who have fled persecution and conflict.”

Cooper cited the Home Office’s analysis that said of the more than 7,000 Albanians who applied for asylum after sneaking into the UK on small boats in the year ending September, less than one percent have received an initial decision. She also cited the reduction in the overall number of decisions taken by the Home Office, accusing the Conservative government of not having “a grip” on the problem.

“We’re proposing a fast track system for people who have come from countries that are designated as safe—that does include Albania, it includes other countries as well—so that where there are cases which are clearly unfounded, where people are not fleeing persecution and conflict, those can be swiftly decided and people swiftly returned,” she told LBC.

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A warehouse facility in Dover, Kent, for boats used by people thought to be migrants. Traffickers have concocted a Europe-wide operation to smuggle migrants in dinghies across the Channel to the UK, according to the National Crime Agency. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

‘Prevent This Huge Backlog’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme, the Labour frontbencher told by rejecting the approach, the Conservative government is responding to the problem with “rhetoric, not a common sense approach, which is what we need.”

Asked what Labour would do with the UNHCR’s requirement to ensure applicants can rebut that their countries of origin are safe, Cooper didn’t specify details of the plan, but pointed to other countries including Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway, which she said, “all have some version of this.”

She said it would not be a “blanket approach,” adding, “Of course, you’ve got to have all of the proper safeguards in place. The asylum system can do that. But it should still be possible to make decisions very swiftly to prevent this huge backlog.”

Labour has previously introduced a fast track scheme when it was last in power, but the scheme, which involved detaining applicants deemed eligible for fast tracking and resulted in 99 percent of rejections, was mired in legal changes and eventually suspended in 2015 after it was ruled to be “structurally unfair.”

Peter Walsh, a senior researcher at the Migration Observatory, University of Oxford, told MPs on the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday that the suspension of the scheme is one of the plausible explanations for delays in asylum outcomes.

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Home Secretary Suella Braverman leaves 10 Downing Street following a Cabinet Meeting in London, on Nov. 29, 2022. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Blank Rejections

The government has not ruled out the introduction of a fast tracking scheme. According to The Times of London, Home Secretary Suella Braverman is reportedly planning to go further, legislating for blank rejections of cases from safe countries.

The Home Office didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

Labour’s proposal and the government’s reported plan do not specifically target certain countries, but Albania has recently come into focus after a sharp increase of small boats arrivals from the Balkan country.

According to Home Office figures, a total of 815 Albanian nationals arrived in small boats in the whole of 2021. Between May and September this year, 11,102 Albanians arrived by the same method, representing 42 percent of all small-boat arrivals in the five months period.

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A group of illegal immigrants are brought into Dover, England, by the RNLI, on Aug. 25, 2022. (Gareth Fuller/PA Media)

People Smuggling

In August, videos seen on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok appeared to advertise paid smuggling of people from Albania to the UK. According to GB News, TikTok later banned four accounts flagged by the broadcaster.

The National Crime Agency last month said Albanian gangs had been working with Iraqi Kurd people-trafficking syndicates, bringing illegal immigrants across the English Channel, coaching them on what to say to the UK Border Force, and then putting them to work in cannabis farms.

Andi Hoxhaj, a lecturer in Law at the University College London with Albanian background, told the Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday that most of those who left Albania left for reasons including economic opportunities, well being, access to the judiciary, or joining families.

He said one-third of Albanians now live below the poverty line, compared to 21 percent before the 2019 earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the unemployment rate among people aged between 18 and 34 is around 60 percent.

However, there are also cases in which people are fleeing severe domestic violence or criminal gangs, or impoverished children who became victims of trafficking gangs after they or their family members fell into debt bondage, the committee heard.

Chris Summers contributed to this report.

Lily Zhou


Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter focusing on UK news. Lily first joined the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times before turning her focus on the UK in 2020. Contact Lily at

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