Almost half of all sham marriages identified in the UK post-Brexit involved an Albanian national, according to data published by the BBC.
Data obtained by the national broadcaster found that 365 couples tried to fraudulently exploit a post-Brexit scheme allowing EU citizens and their spouses to email in the UK. Of these, 146 of the marriages involved an Albanian citizen.
BBC News revealed that couples tried to fraudulently exploit the scheme by entering into a sham marriage – with the EU national extending their residency rights to their non-EU bogus partner.
Some individuals do it for money, while organised crime gangs are often involved.
Freedom of information requests also found that no one had been prosecuted for such sham marriages, and since 2020, no one had their leave to remain revoked.
Dr Ervin Muco told the BBC that networks facilitate such schemes for “people that are prepared to pay”. He added that some of the men leaving Albania “do try to find women from European countries they can marry. They can have all the benefits of being a European citizen.”
The Home Office said, “As the public rightly expects, we take the abuse of the spouse-and-partner immigration routes very seriously – and to suggest otherwise is wrong.
“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action against individuals found to be in a sham marriage or civil partnership, including cancelling their leave and removing them from the UK.”
Albania is also one of the leading countries for asylum applications in the EU and UK, with over 1000 applications a month. In addition, thousands leave the country via alternative means with the plan to illegally enter countries such as the UK.
The figures published by Eurostat show that the number doubled when compared with 2021 but still remains around 20% less than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
France remains the number one preferred destination, receiving more than half of all applications. This is due to favourable conditions for those applying for asylum. The number of applications increased by 130% in the first two months of 2022 when compared with the same period the month before.
Germany is the second most popular country, with 24% of the total tripling compared to 2021.
Italy and Greece now rank in third and fourth place, respectively.
Albania has made British headlines for all the wrong reasons over the weekend. Several tabloids have run stories about the many immigrants trying to enter the country illegally.
According to information apparently ‘leaked’ to the Daily Mail, four out of ten people illegally crossing the Channel are Albanian. This has led to questions about why the number is so high from a safe country that is not at war.
Reports in the media noted that almost three times as many Albanian immigrants are trying to enter the country compared to other countries of origin.
The report reveals that 1,075 Albanians made up 37.5% of the 2,863 people who crossed in the six weeks between 1 June and 12 July. They were followed by Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians.
Reasons for leaving the country include poverty, lack of opportunities, low wages, education, health, and in the case of asylum applications, domestic violence, blood feuds, and organised crime.