From: Alice Taylor, Arjola Tafaj
Another Arrest for Migrant Smuggling Amid EU Commissioners Visit to Albania

A 29-year-old man from Korca was arrested on Sunday for smuggling three immigrants through the country. He was found transporting 3 Syrian immigrants in an Audi vehicle and is believed to have promised them assistance with transport to an EU country in return for money.

This is the latest in a number of arrests police have made for people smuggling in Albania. Despite lockdown measures, 2020 saw arrests on an almost daily basis as Albanians transported groups of immigrants through the country, usually in vans or lorries.

Albania has become a transit route for Syrian immigrants to EU countries. Despite the arrests and the increase of border control measures by the EU police, the trafficking of migrants continues.

The EU stationed its border guards Frontex in Albania to help alleviate the issue, but instead, they faced accusations of illegally pushing back immigrants into Greece. An investigation conducted by Exit heard witness accounts that not only was this happening regularly but that some police were complicit in allowing the transit of individuals through the country.

Exit was able to interview someone involved in the schemes who confirmed that these operations were large in scale and included an ‘agency’ in Greece, payoffs to officials, and well-organized processes such as ‘safe houses’ and networks of couriers and contacts.

 EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson has been in the region during the last week to observe efforts to combat the phenomenon. She praised Frontex and the Albanian authorities for their work.

Exit reached out to Johannson’s team on three occasions to request an interview in the coming weeks but was refused by one, and ignored by two others.

Furthermore, Exit has made numerous requests for information to the State Police regarding how many migrants have been found in the last few years, what is the process for managing these cases, and where they are sent i.e. camps, repatriated, etc but these have been ignored.