The singling out of Albanian migrants in the UK has been a “very, very disgraceful moment in British politics”, the country’s prime minister has said.
Edi Rama, who is in Britain for talks with Rishi Sunak, said it is essential that relations between the two countries are not defined by a few “rotten apples”.
“Unfortunately we have seen ourselves and our community being singled out in this country for purposes of politics. It has been a very, very disgraceful moment for British politics,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Rama called out the language of Home Secretary Suella Braverman in particular.
Asked if he was referring to the language about small boats crossings, he said: “I mean what has been spoke out by members of the cabinet, starting with the home secretary and then I mean what exactly has been developing as the singling out of our community which is not something you do in our civilisation and is something that does not represent Britain at all.
“This has been a very low point in our relations but there is a will to overcome it.
“We will always refuse to have this mix between some criminals and the Albanians as such because giving to the crime an ethnic seal is itself a crime.”
Mr Rama has previously accused Suella Braverman of fuelling xenophobic attacks after she spoke in parliament about an “invasion” of asylum seekers and “Albanian criminals”.
He said the UK should stop blaming his people for the migrant crisis to “excuse policy failures”.
But Mr Rama said on Thursday that he believes Mr Sunak has set relations on a new path towards cooperating on issues that concern them both.
“On the other hand I am very satisfied with your prime minister,” he said.
“We have set up a clear path towards tackling together whatever has to be excluded from our relations and from our world of law and justice but at the same time making sure that some rotten apples do not define the Albanian community here and our relations.”
Mr Rama’s meeting with Mr Sunak in Downing Street will be their first face-to-face talks.
The two leaders spoke last December in the wake of the controversy over Ms Braverman’s comments when they agreed to work together to close “loopholes” preventing the return to Albania of failed asylum seekers.
More than a third of people who crossed the Channel to the UK in the first nine months of the year were from Albania, according to government figures.
Under Mr Sunak’s five-point plan to stop illegal immigration that was launched in December, an agreement was made with Mr Rama to embed Border Force officials in Tirana, Albania’s capital, as part of a package of measures to reduce Channel crossings among people from the country.
Since then the government has ramped up its measures to crack down on small boats, by putting forward a bill which bans anyone from claiming asylum if they enter the UK through unauthorised means.