Frontex Annual Report Provides Valuable Insight into Albania Drug Trafficking and Migration

According to the 2019 annual report from Frontex, Albania is a significant source of cannabis that is then trafficked to neighbouring countries via land routes. 

These exports are also sent to Western and Central European countries via the Adriatic Sea using maritime vessels.

“Cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit drug in Europe with a large proportion of herbal cannabis grown closer to the place of consumption. Outdoor cultivation sites and numerous inland seizures reported in EUROSUR by the Member States during border surveillance activities confirm the Western Balkans and Albania in particular as a source of herbal cannabis trafficked to neighbouring countries via land routes or exported to Western and Central Europe via the Adriatic Sea, using speed boats or ferries,” the report reads.

In addition to this, the report noted that in 2019 Albania’s maritime flag was demoted to the Paris MoU Black List. It is joined on the list by Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Moldova, Togo and Ukraine. Its inclusion means that vessels registered in Albania are considered high risk and can face restrictions when trying to enter certain ports.

The report also tackled the issue of migration. Albanian citizens were found to be amongst those using fraudulent documents to travel, being refused entry to EU countries, and being returned home, voluntarily or otherwise.

When looking at the ten most reported nationalities for return decisions, nationals of Albania, Pakistan, Syria, Algeria, Brazil and Turkey witnessed an increase in 2019. In line with previous years, Albanians, Ukrainians and Moroccans were the most reported nationalities for effective returns. All three did show a decrease on the previous year despite the upward trend in detections for illegal stays.

Overall in 2019, around 71100 returns were reportedly carried out with the support of Member States and/or Frontex, and these mainly involved nationals of Albania, Morocco and Algeria. 

Voluntary departures reported in 2019 amounted to around 67,600, 36% of which were Ukrainians, followed by around 3800 Georgians and just over 3000 Albanians opting for this method of return.

According to Europol, most migrant smuggling cases in 2019 concerned the Western Balkan region. The most common modus operandi here was clandestine entry using often life-threatening means of concealment in various types of vehicles.

The Western Balkan route continues to be mostly transited by irregular migrants trying to reach Western Europe from Turkey. This route was most often used by young, male migrants who accounted for 94% of all interceptions at EU borders in 2019.

The overall demographics of migrants in 2019 show an increase in the share of vulnerable groups, including a slight growth in the share of women and children. Europol has received particularly worrying reports about the kidnapping of vulnerable irregular migrants, including unaccompanied minors, once they arrive in the EU.