An Albanian woman studying to be a lawyer in Manchester has said: “We are not all criminals.”
Marinela Bouzo, 27, has hit out after home secretary Suella Braverman said ‘Albanian criminals’ helped migrants cross the Channel during a debate. Last year, 12,000 Albanian migrants arrived in the UK on small boats – more than from any other country.
Hundreds have recently been returned back to their homeland under a Government ‘gold-standard’ deal with Albania. However, Marinela, who moved to the UK in her twenties, says the majority of Albanians are hardworking individuals who contribute positively to society.
Marinela said: “Whether it’s coming from Suella Braverman or anyone else, it’s important not to generalise an entire group of people based on the actions of a few individuals.
“While on the whole my experiences in England have been positive, I’ve had comments here and there and some people still negatively judge when I tell them my family is Albanian.
“I have encountered individuals as young as 14 and 15 who have arrived in the UK as victims of criminal gangs and promised a brighter future, only to find themselves trapped in the clutches of modern slavery.
“There are also families who strive for a better life, seeking employment and opportunities in the UK because their home country lacks the avenues for growth.
“Desperate to escape their circumstances, they embark on illegal journeys, risking their lives for a chance at a future they cannot find within their own borders, showing the lengths they are willing to go for their loved ones.”
She added “We’re not all criminals, but sometimes we’re treated like them.”
Marinela moved from Albania to Crete, Greece as a youngster in the 1990s to escape the Kosovo War. After successfully completing her studies in international business at the American College of Greece in Athens, she set her sights on becoming a lawyer.
She then relocated to the UK, where she achieved a 2:1 LLB law degree from the Open University while working full time. But Marinela, who now lives in Manchester, said that it was ‘very hard’ growing up in Greece as she wouldn’t get invited to things because of her nationality.
She said: “It was a very hard time growing up in Greece as people saw me as different. I wouldn’t get invited to things because I was Albanian, which was really distressing.
“I would sit at home and think why this was happening to me. I’ve had this all my life to varying degrees, even in England, and I’m sure other Albanian’s are no different.”
Marinela joined Barings Law in Manchester in December 2022, where she is currently training for her Solicitor’s Qualifying Exams (SQE). She has said that her passion ‘lies in supporting those fighting for their lives’ and she hopes to ‘improve the lives of others’ through her work.
Marinela said: “From a young age I would hear the word ‘lawyer’ without fully grasping its significance. Witnessing my father’s relentless search for legal assistance, I instinctively felt that a lawyer could save not only my mother’s life but also mine.
“It’s remarkable that this feeling remains unchanged as I’ve grown up and pursued a career in law. My passion lies in supporting those fighting for their lives and making a positive impact.
“The notion of lawyers as saviours still drives me, as I strive to improve the lives of others. I want to thank Barings Law for giving me the opportunity to do what I love, as I feel welcomed to be part of a team that enables me to make a positive impact.”