Suspected Iran hack reveals UK-Albania migrant talks

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LONDON: The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that a suspected Iranian cyberattack on Albania exposed negotiations between Tirana and London about combating illegal immigration to the UK.

Iran has upped its attacks on the Balkan country in recent months, with Albania and the US accusing Tehran of being behind a massive incident earlier this month and another in July.

According to Albania’s Interior Ministry, the new hack led Tirana to temporarily shut down its Total Information Management System, which is used by police and security services to share information about migrants and criminals.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that the attack was carried out by the “same aggressors” as the July hack, which Washington identified as Iran.

Last Friday, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Iran’s spy service for its role in the hack, and the Biden administration stated that it will “hold Iran accountable for activities that endanger the security of a US ally.” Albania has since cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

Over the weekend, official UK government documents documenting conversations with counterparts in Tirana were leaked onto an Iranian Telegram channel as part of a cache of emails designated “sensitive” and included details about measures to curb immigration and organized crime.

They include correspondence from February this year between Albania’s former police director, Gledis Nano, and Alastair King-Smith, the British ambassador in Tirana, detailing plans to station UK Border Force officers at the Albanian ports of Durres and Porto Romano to “assess the container traffic, Ro/Ro, passengers, port and law enforcement IT systems, and the current operational capabilities that exist within the port.”

This year has witnessed a huge increase in the number of Albanians attempting to enter the UK illegally, with the help of criminal groups.

Albanians are now expected to make up much to 60% of those attempting to cross the English Channel by boat.

In addition to human trafficking, Albanian gangs control a large amount of Europe’s cocaine trade and, increasingly, cannabis cultivation.

According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, the increase of Albanians attempting to enter the country illegally is being driven in part by a need to recruit more gang members to operate on the ground.

In 2021, former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel reached an arrangement with the Balkan state to expedite deportations of Albanians living unlawfully in the UK.

Last week, an agreement was reached to grant UK law enforcement access to criminal and biometric data held by Albanian police.

The Iranian Embassy in Brussels claimed it “rejected the unfounded charges” that it was behind the Albanian hacks.

Source: Arab News

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