Dominic Raab refuses to rule out plans to fly Channel-crossing migrants to Albania

Ministers are in talks to open an asylum centre in the eastern European country, some 1,500 miles away from Britain, to deter migrants from making the dangerous crossing from northern France.

Anyone seeking asylum in Britain after arriving by illegal routes, such as in dinghies and small boats, would be flown out to the new centre within seven days, the Times reported yesterday.

Discussing the plans yesterday morning, Mr Raab did not deny talks were being held with Tirana, the country’s capital.

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He told Times Radio: “We are looking at international partnerships that can take the processing out of the UK in order to try and reduce the pull factor which means people think they can successfully take advantage of these routes.

French police officers pass a deflated dinghy on the beach in Wimereux near Calais as migrants continue to launch small boats along the coastline in a bid to cross the Channel towards the UK.

“Forgive me not commenting on the individual countries, a lot of these discussions are at a preliminary stage, it is much more than just one partner.”

The project would cost the British taxpayer an estimated £100,000 per migrant for flights and accommodation. This is more than twice what it costs in England and Wales to hold an asylum seeker for a year.

But a minister told the newspaper offshore processing centre is the UK’s “best hope” at tackling the migrant crisis.

They said: “Offshore processing is our best hope now, as nothing else is working.”

But on Thursday afternoon Edi Rama, the Albanian prime minister, denied the reports.

He told Albania’s Top Channel: “Albania will never be a country where very rich countries will set up camps for their refugees. Never.”

Olta Xhaçka, Albania’s minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, also branded the report as “fake news”.

It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed earlier this week to stop “100 per cent” of Channel crossings from France.

She held talks with French interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Monday night to help agree a solution over how to address the problem of migrants seeking to cross the Channel.

Migrant crossings are on the rise, with 1,195 people crossing the Channel last Thursday – far-exceeding the previous daily high of 852. Numbers are not decreasing despite the advent of winter.

In response to news about the plan to open an asylum centre in Albania, a Home Office spokesman said: “Migrants making these dangerous crossings are putting their lives at risk and it is vital we do everything we can to prevent them and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting people.

“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, and as part of our response it is important we have a maritime deterrent in the channel and work with international partners to put an end to these dangerous journeys.”

No 10 said it would not comment on conversations with specific countries over the processing of migrants who arrive in the UK.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’ve always been clear that we want to keep all options on the table.”

So far this year, more than 20,000 migrants have crossed the English channel.