Official statistics in the UK say that Albanians are now the largest group making small-boat crossings of the Channel

London (AFP) - UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his counterpart in Tirana Edi Rama on Thursday agreed to do more to stem the flow of Albanians making small-boat crossings of the Channel.

Albanians are now the largest single group among record numbers of migrants attempting the journey from northern France, which has put pressure on the government in London.

Sunak “acknowledged the positive contribution of the Albanian community to life in the UK”, Downing Street said.

But both leaders agreed that “more needed to be done to address illegal migration”, a readout of the leaders’ telephone conversation added.

The pair discussed plans to close loopholes preventing the rapid return of failed asylum seekers.

Relations between London and Tirana have been strained over recent months as the UK government attempts to get to grips with crossings of the Channel.

More than 40,000 migrants have made the journey so far in 2022, with Albanians the largest single group.

Rama lambasted the UK last month for allegedly “discriminating” against Albanians, after a top UK official singled out the nation for its role in illicit migration.

Rama condemned what he called the UK’s “crazy narrative of invaders and gangsters”.

“To single out the community and to talk about gangsters and about criminals doesn’t sound… very British… more like screams from a madhouse,” he said.

In a sign of thawing relations, the two leaders on Thursday “welcomed the longstanding close partnership between the UK and Albania and committed to strengthening collaboration on trade, investment and defence, including cyber security,” Downing Street said.