Philip Hammond is urging more action from Albania to curb organised crime and people trafficking on a short visit to the Balkan state. The Foreign Secretary is to hold talks with prime minister Edi Rama as well as the country’s foreign and interior ministers in an effort to strengthen co-operation between London and Tirana. Around 60 Albanian criminals are deported every month from the UK under a prisoner transfer deal signed in 2013 – mostly for sexual assaults, violence and drug trafficking.
There are also major concerns about people smuggling via the country – with charity Barnardo’s recently warning of an alarming rise in the number of Albanian children being held as sex slaves in Britain. Mr Hammond’s meetings – en route to a visit to Cyprus to discuss progress on the island’s reconciliation talks – also form part of a wider push to boost relations with Balkan states and “strengthen the stability and security in our backyard”, the Foreign Office said.
Albania is seeking European Union membership – and was granted candidate status in 2014 – and Mr Hammond would “be pressing for further reform to support UK security priorities and meet EU standards”, they said.