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New tech to combat criminal gangs in Albania and UK

A sophisticated network of UK-funded cameras worth £1.6 million has been installed on the Albania-Kosovo border to tackle illegal migration and criminal gangs.

Above: The Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, is shown surveillance monitors in Albania.
Courtesy Home Office

The equipment includes a fleet of drones and number plate recognition cameras to allow Albanian systems to recognise British vehicles – which have been used by criminals seeking to avoid detection by the local police.  

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The new drones will allow authorities to track migrants who try to get through the region via the mountainous areas of Albania, which are otherwise difficult to police. The vehicle cameras will help British and Albanian police work together more closely, searching records faster and sharing information when a car is suspected of being involved in people-smuggling or other criminal behaviour.

The Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson visited Albania this week, where he saw first-hand the new technology and other ways the country is clamping down on people-smuggling gangs.

He went on to visit the UK’s flagship New Perspectives programme designed to create education, job and business opportunities to provide a more prosperous future for young Albanian nationals. The Minister met some of the young people benefitting from the initiative in the northern city of Kukës.

Following this, the Minister travelled to the Albanian capital of Tirana, for a ministerial conference attended by countries from across the Western Balkans region.

Together with Albania’s Minister of Interior, Taulant Balla, they discussed ways of working together more closely to address the shared challenge of illegal migration.

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These initiatives build on our successful partnership which has already reduced small boat arrivals to the UK from Albania by over 90%.

Minister for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson said: "Our partnership with Albania and the work we have done together to ramp up returns is a benchmark for how we want to work with partners globally. Almost no Albanian nationals are now arriving in the UK on a small boat.

"We have delivered great results not just in reducing illegal migration to the UK but also in helping to provide opportunities for Albanian people to stay and prosper in their home country. Our work to stop the boats doesn’t start in the English Channel – it starts at the source."

The action forms part of a nationwide increase in Home Office activity to tackle illegal migration. Enforcement visits rose by 68% last year and arrests more than doubled, while returns of people with no right to be in the UK increased to 26,000.

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