The EU border police will patrol Albania’s border to tackle illegal migration and cross-border crime.
Today, the European Border and Coast Agency (Frontex) launched in Albania its first fully-fledged operation outside the EU to patrol the European border.
A team of 50 Frontex officers from 12 EU member countries, patrol cars and other equipment will deploy tomorrow to the Albanian border with Greece to tackle illegal migration and cross-border crime. They will be responsible of border control, combating cross-border, seizure of drugs and weapons, detection of people smugglers, stolen cars and fraudulent documents.
Frontex agents will practically have the same powers as the Albanian police, including carrying guns. Border patrol teams now will be comprised of Albanian and Frontex officers.
Albania signed an agreement on border cooperation with the EU last year, officially announced as a request of Albania’s government. This was the first ever agreement of its kind foreseeing the deployment of Frontex officers outside the EU borders. It entered into force in May 2019, and today Prime Minister Edi Rama and EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos launched its implementation. Similar agreements with other countries in the region have not been finalized.
The deployment of EU border police to guard Albania’s border comes amidst a dire economic, social and political situation in the country.
In terms of the population, more Albanians want to flee than many who are living in war torn countries. In 2018, for every 1000 Albanian citizens, 6.6 applied for asylum in an EU country, placing the country above Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Recent reports by the US State Department and Global Initiative stated that Albania is a source country for cannabis, a transit country for heroin and cocaine, and a hotspot of organized crime. Last month, the Dutch parliament approved a motion calling for the suspension of Schengen visa exemption for Albania, citing high rates of crimes committed by Albanians.