Albania cracks down on migrant arrivals via new Balkan route to the EU

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Police data show Albania has seen a rise in arrests for illegal entry this year, as numbers of migrants trying to reach Western Europe via Albania have leapt.

Albanian authorities have caught over 2,000 migrants in the first five months of 2021, with smugglers opening a new Balkan route for those fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Albanian Interior Ministry spokesman Ardian Bita said his country is “doing its utmost to fight the organised crime” groups that help traffic migrants, and has arrested “a considerable number” of smugglers this year.

Among those who try the difficult crossing is Mohammad Nour Mahmood Al Damad from Syria, who has been turned back six times by the European border agency Frontex. But Mohammad is determined to persist, after being refused asylum in Greece.

“I want to leave. I don’t want to go to Europe, just Albania or Kosovo. I want a good life,” he said.

“But I have a problem with my leg, look. I can’t walk, but I can move slow. This is from a sniper in my city,” Mohammad added.

Shaikh Musa Abdallah from Sudan has also tried six times to cross the border with his wife and five children aged between 5 and 15, but Frontex has derailed them.

“I want to go through Albania to Serbia but at the border of Albania is border police from Germany, Italy and Hungary. It is very difficult to go,” Shaikh noted.

The Albanian government wants aid to increase patrols on the Greek border and has welcomed a decision by Frontex to curb migration.

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