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UK delegation consolidates cooperation with Albania on issues of common concern

Across the week commencing 26 February, a BGIPU delegation of UK Members of Parliament visited Albania to strengthen bilateral Parliamentary links. Consisting of Matthew Offord (Conservative), Tan Dhesi (Labour), Baroness Blackstone (Labour), and Baroness Bonham-Carter (Liberal Democrat), and supported by Holly Sloan from the BGIPU, the delegation sought to promote greater cooperation between the Government and Opposition Members in the Albanian Parliament. In addition, the delegation sought to understand how the work of the UK’s Foreign Office is working to reduce illegal migration, modern slavery, serious and organised crime, education, culture, trade and development.

After paying a courtesy visit to the President, Mr Bajram Begaj, the delegation met with the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Anti-corruption and the Foreign Affairs committee, and the UK Friendship Group of Albanian MPs. Chiefly among the latter group was Lavdrim Krashi, a British Albanian national who has strong links with the UK.

The delegation undertook two significant visits to projects funded and promoted by the British Embassy in Tirana. The “Different and Equal shelter” is a safe refuge in the capital city that provides accommodation and assistance for those who have been ensnared into modern-day slavery. While some of those who seek assistance are from Albania, many others are from as far away as Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe. Referrals come from law enforcement agencies and local government but also from a mobile unit that undertakes employment inspections.

A visit was also made to the town of Kukës in north Albania, near the Kosovo border. This is the part of the country that has witnessed a huge number of people seeking illegal migration to the UK. A discussion was held with the Mayor of Kukes and the region’s MPs about initiatives being promoted to enhance local economic development. One such scheme was visited, the ‘New Perspectives’ programme that promotes investment in the region and a round table discussion was held with participants at the ‘Yes Centre’ that provides mentors and business loans to local people engaging in graphic design, artisan handicrafts, culinary projects, food and drink supplies, tourism, tailoring and needlework.

Dr Matthew Offord MP