A total of 8343 irregular migrants have been caught in Albania in the first eight months of 2020. This is according to data from the Interior Ministry.
This number comes as a result of Albania being used as a transit country for third-country nationals wanting to reach the EU. Hundreds each day try to enter the country illegally via the border with Greece or North Macedonia, before proceeding to Tirana and then onwards to Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and then an EU state like Hungary.
The number of migrants caught this year is 47.8% more than in the same period the year before, showing that if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
In a recent report, the Albanian Helsinki Committee wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted irregular migrant movements due to restrictive measures against freedom of movement. This lead to an increase in various forms of trafficking under the organization of criminal groups. One of the most popular routes starts in Albania and continues up the Adriatic coast to Montenegro.
Through an investigation involving interviews with those involved in trafficking, Exit was informed that despite almost daily arrests of traffickers, the vast majority of transits go undetected. Our source, who himself has been arrested for trafficking, said that hundreds were being moved through the country each day.
Once entering Albania, they are transported to Tirana where they are dropped off and their location is sent to another involved in the scheme. They are picked up and taken to a rented apartment in the Laprake area of the city where they have a day or two to wash, eat, and rest before moving onwards to the northern borders.
But as for those caught, the Interior Ministry and the Police both did not respond to a Freedom of Information request from Exit regarding how many are sent back, how many are kept in detention centres, and what the process is for dealing with irregular migrants.
Exits investigations revealed however that many were just taken back to the border and left there.