Frontex Starts Albania Mission, First outside EU, to Fight Illegal Migration
The EU is preparing similar missions in four other countries in the Western Balkans on the Balkan Route of migrants from the wider Middle East.
The EU’s border protection agency Frontex has deployed its forces for the first time outside the member states of the European Union in an effort to stem the influx of illegal migrants through Albania, an EU candidate country in the Western Balkans.
“The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is launching its first full-fledged joint operation outside the European Union,” Frontex said in a release.
It made it clear the mission in Albania included 50 officers with 16 patrol cars and one thermo-vision van coming from a total of 12 EU member states.
The launch of the mission designed “to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime” was given in the capital Tirana by Albanian Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Albanian Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj, EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
“We can only effectively deal with the many challenges at our borders if we work together across borders,” Leggeri stated
“Border guards from all around Europe will work shoulder-to-shoulder with their Albanian colleagues at Albania’s border with Greece. I am proud that Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has once again delivered by launching its first joint operation outside the European Union, here in Albania,” he added.
“We are opening an entirely new chapter in our cooperation on migration and border management with Albania and with the whole Western Balkan region. This is a real game changer and a truly historical step,” declared in turn EU Commissioner Avramopoulos.
Frontex emphasizes the importance of its mission in Albania as per a Status Agreement on border cooperation between the Western Balkan country and the EU, the Union’s “first agreement of this kind with a neighboring non-EU country”.
The European Commission has prepared similar agreements with four other Western Balkan countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, which are to go into effect shortly.
All of those are former Yugoslav republics that are current or potential EU candidates, and are located on the Balkan Route of migrants from wider Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
The goals of the Frontex mission in Albania would be “to control migratory flows, to tackle cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism.”
All border checks and surveillance carried out by Frontex staff on Albania’s border with Greece will be performed in the presence of Albanian officers as per an operational plan consulted with Greece.
The Frontex staff will be led by an Albanian team leader. The Frontex mission in Albania has no time limit.
The officers deployed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in Albania have been provided by EU member states Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia.
“[Frontex’s mission in Albania] strengthen[s] the agency’s ability to act in the EU’s immediate neighborhood, while bringing that neighborhood closer to the EU,” the European Commission declared in a statement.
(Banner image: Frontex)