22nd May 2023: Shpresa Programme at the House of Lords
On May 22, our youth had the opportunity to participate in an impactful discussion at the House of Lords to address the pressing issue of Albanian refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. As part of the Breaking the Chains Project, they actively advocate for social change.
The newly proposed Illegal Migration Bill deems all those travelling to the UK via a ‘safe country’ or crossing the Channel, and the majority of other arrivals permanently inadmissible for asylum. The government has proposed this in response what it defines as modern slavery rules to incite removal, particularly by Albanian arrivals to the UK by small boats. Further comments by the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fuelled the propaganda against Albanian migrants by using hurtful/damaging terminology, namely ‘invaders’ and ‘criminals’. They deem Albania to be a safe country, rendering asylum claims not sufficient for protection.
Albania is beautiful country in South-Eastern Europe, a perfect holiday destination for tourists all over the world. Sadly, it also suffers from a long, complex history of colonisation, communism, war, and continues to be a victim of political corruption with consequences that linger to this day. Our young people shared their powerful testimonies amongst immigration lawyers, Members of the Parliament (MPs), and the esteemed Professor the Baroness Lister of Burtrsett.
Nobody enjoys leaving their country, taking on a terrifying journey on unstable, vast waters, just for the sake of being a burden to another country. The asylum system is designed to be hostile, and with the new bill, it will be extremely difficult for migrants to seek protection. Many Albanians flee due to being trafficked, abused, escaped blood feuds and organised crime, whereas others fear for their lives due to their sexuality or gender-based violence.
Who do you call when a country vowed to protect you fails to do so everyday? Is it not the government’s duty to protect its citizens?
Ironically, what we continue to hear is that, ‘Albania is a safe country…but all Albanians are criminals’.
Our young people bravely voiced their lived experiences and sparked discussions that shed light on the lack of protection in Albania. The discussion was so inspiring and informative that the esteemed Baroness Lister herself was exceptionally moved by the stories of our Albanian youth. As a result, we are beyond happy to say that the Baroness will table the amendment to the part of the Migration Bill that would remove Albania from the list of EEA ‘safe’ countries.
What does this mean for the future? The challenges our youth has faced and many others like them will be raised in the awareness of many, including decision makers that have the power to change the course of the contentious Illegal Migration Bill.