Teams from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, or Frontex, will patrol Albania’s borders with Greece for the first time, it was announced on Tuesday in Tirana. The newly-placed officers will patrol areas for illegal immigration and also keep an eye out for criminal activity in the region.
European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri together announced the launch of “the first-ever joint operation on the territory of a neighboring non-EU country.”
Avramopoulos said the agreement is “a milestone in the EU co-operation with the region.”
“This is a real game-changer and a truly historical step, bringing this region closer to the EU by working together in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on shared challenges such as better managing migration and protecting our common borders,” said Avramopoulos.
Fifty officers, sixteen patrol cars and one thermo-vision van from twelve EU member countries will deploy along the border of Albania and Greece.
Albania’s Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said there was a sixfold increase in the number of illegal migrant crossings at the Greek/Albanian border compared to one year ago. He did not give exact numbers for either year.
Albania is not known as a preferred route for migrants, but some do enter the tiny Western Balkan country in order to make their way toward northern Europe.
Similar agreements have also been signed with the nations of North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.