The beautiful life advertised by the “London guys” on TikTok has become a motive for many young people, but also parents who decide to leave Albania in one of the most dangerous ways. On this platform, the life of luxury is presented, but also the offers of traffickers, which for a trip by truck, dinghy or plane varies from 4 thousand to 17 thousand pounds betting with death, on their journey. Faktoje brings testimonies of people who have experienced the horror of these trips, as claimed by a 28-year-old and a mother with her two children.
Ilda Hoxha and Jona Plumbi
On Tik Tok, you find some offers and contacts to travel illegally to the UK. Faktoje has collected some of these posts that are then deleted from the network, to show how citizens connect with traffickers to leave illegally by sea, land and air. Based on the risk, the payment also varies.
“The road with rafts on the 19th, 20th, 21st. There is no return from the state 100%, with a super offer of 4.5 thousand pounds. Payment after passing, sms are open”, was one of the posts on TikTok made on January 17 of this year.
Air transportation is also offered through a fake passport, which costs 8,000 euros. These videos, where human trafficking is offered, are deleted from social networks, after the planned “trip” has been completed.
Kukësi, the poorest county in Albania, is known as the area with the most massive escapes to the UK, so we traveled to this town on January 16, where we spoke to young people who had tried to flee illegally to the UK risking their lives, but they had not succeeded. And yet they had a clear intention, to try it until they reached the goal of living in London.
The “epidemic” of social networks
There are two ways in which social networks help in the illegal trafficking of Albanian immigrants to the United Kingdom. First by allowing illegal travel to be advertised, as well as luring young people into thinking that this trip is easy and has a happy ending.
Just open Tik Tok and search for “road to England”. The search result is surprising!
Numerous videos advertising the opportunity to travel by dinghy or truck to England for 3-5 thousand pounds also circulate on Instagram and Facebook. The trips are advertised as 100% safe and affordable.
The Albanians are invited to pay the cost through a realtor who is Albanian and who connects them with traffickers who depart from the coast of France towards England.
Everything advertised for free on the net.
Armando (*name is not real as the witness preferred not to be identified) 28 years old from Kukësi, recounts the long ordeal of suffering that accompanied him in the failed attempt to arrive in London. He says that he left by raft, but a series of mishaps happened during the journey.
He was convinced to go to England by raft from the “facilities” advertised on social networks.
“Normal from videos on Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, bags from London showing facilities to get there.” – explains the 28-year-old, continuing – “Photo in the middle of the sea with the bags, everyone is laughing as they make the eagle sign with their hands, where it was written ‘the bags arrived successfully’. While we have tried several times to go there, with 25 thousand – 30 thousand pounds and we have not succeeded. It’s normal if you see that some people get there with 2-3 thousand pounds, you immediately obey.” Armando confesses, which is just one of thousands of cases of young people in the north of Albania, who see their country as having no future.
What actually happens
“The first time we left in September 2022, we spent 8-9 hours at sea. We had been waiting in the tent for a month for the most convenient moment to start from Calais or Dunkirk. About 80 people, all Albanians, boarded the 9-meter-long raft. Only half of them were wearing life jackets. “Who took them? Certainly the strongest. ” – continues the story with a bitter smile, Armando from Kukësi, who is also the father of a 2-year-old girl.
“The waves and the wind changed the direction of the dinghy. The family members were sitting in the middle, because the water that had entered the rafts seemed warmer than the waves and the wind that hit us right on the backs of the others who were sitting on the sides.” – he says.
But the engine was too small to withstand the weight and the waves, so the dinghy again went to the coast of France. The 28-year-old who experienced this trip explains that it was impossible to hold the armed traffickers accountable: “For them, you were just one less person on the raft!”
“We tried 2-3 more times in the following days, because we had gone through all that suffering, you couldn’t go back”, confesses the 28-year-old who, after many vicissitudes, was detained by the French authorities and deported to Albania stopped traveling for a year in Europe.
“One day there was extremely great suffering and you could not take that suffering back to Albania. It was a relief to get away. The road there is very difficult. They kill each other, Kurds and Moroccans, ‘these are my Albanians’, they only saw us as money’, not as human beings.
A 24-year-old man tells Faktoje that he has been trying to get to London for 5 years, using different routes.
“I have tried many times to escape to England, by truck, by ferry, by raft. I have tried in several countries, such as Belgium, Spain, France, but I have not succeeded.
It’s scary to run away in a raft. I tried it in October-November 2022, but the police caught us. I was in Dunkirk, where the rafts with Albanians left every day. The trafficking was done by the Kurds, who also carried weapons with them, it was terrifying. You were afraid to speak, to ask them when we were leaving, because they could shoot you at any moment. There is something else, they are not affected by the French police, only Albanians are persecuted and arrested”, says the young man.
He says that there is no future in Kukës, asking for investment, since perhaps only in this way can the departure of young people be stopped.
Faktoje also spoke with a woman who undertook this dangerous journey with her two minor children. The 29-year-old Albanian, originally from Dibra, said in a telephone conversation with Faktoje that she had left Calais for France with her children, 8 and 10 years old. The mother of two arrived in London, where she sought asylum. The 29-year-old woman was placed by the British authorities in a hotel, where there are also other immigrants.
“I saw the ads that were made on TikTok and I thought of leaving for a better life. I left and on August 25 I arrived in England. I paid 8 thousand euros, including the children. I borrowed this money because I didn’t have it,” she says.
“The road with the dinghy was very difficult and with children even more difficult. We went through horror, thank goodness we arrived safely”, says the mother of two children.
According to official data from the Home Office , 35% of the total number of 44,000 people who crossed the English Channel in small boats during 2022 are Albanian citizens, many of whom have applied for asylum. The British authorities make it known that the clear reason that may have led to the increase in the number of people coming from Albania is not known, but in the statements made they stated that the cause is poverty, which has increased especially, especially after the Covid pandemic. 19.
*Main photo taken from the web