The UK is experiencing a “third wave” of migration from Albania, with established criminals recruiting foot soldiers from their former homeland, a lecturer has warned.

Second generation Albanian crime gangs based in the UK are returning to their parents’ country to lure desperate men into crime, Dr Andi Hoxhaj, a lecturer in law at University College London, told MPs.

In written evidence to a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into migration and asylum, Dr Hoxhaj said: “Organised crime networks of Albanian origin based in the UK have exploded in rural areas of Albania, where there is extreme poverty and/or high unemployment, in order to lure young men.

“They offer a free ride to the UK in exchange for employment in cannabis farming or other criminal activities. There was a successful recruitment campaign in 2022 via social media in conjunction with low prices offered by small Channel-crossing boats.”

Dr Hoxhaj said it was the largest wave of Albanian immigration since the first in 1991, after the fall of Communism, and the second in 1997, after many went bankrupt and civil war struck.

He also said large numbers of Albanians were drawn here because they see the UK as “less racist” than other European countries.

Dr Hoxhaj said there are an estimated 50,000 Albanians in the UK, but there could be more.

However, far from the promised “gangster” lifestyle, many young Albanians are trafficked into modern-day slavery and forced to pay off “travel fees” on cannabis farms.

Many arrested Albanians have been held in immigration detention centres. Some 200 migrant children, mainly Albanians, are missing from Home Office-funded hotels amid fears traffickers have taken them.

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