Thursday

25th May 2017

Fears grow on alternative migrant routes in Europe

  • Albania could be the next gateway for migrants and refugees towards Italy (Photo: Marco Fieber)

Fears are growing that migrants and refugees will try to enter the EU via Albania and the Adriatic Sea after Europe on Wednesday (9 March) closed the Western Balkan corridor.

There is no sign yet of a build-up of people on the Albanian-Greek border.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But Albania, a Nato member and EU aspirant with a population of less than 3 million, could be a gateway to Italy.

“We have to collectively look at all the possible consequences of the envisaged agreement between the EU and Turkey, and prepare for them, including the issue of alternative routes,” a senior EU official told press in Brussels on Wednesday, referring to an EU-Turkey deal to close the Western Balkan path.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “There is always the possibility that this flow could be diverted in other directions if the Balkan route is closed. For the moment it is not the case.”

“All countries in the region are well prepared even for this likelihood. But for the moment there is no sign that migratory flows are diverted towards either Albania or other countries in the region,” he said.

According to Frontex, the EU’s border agency in Warsaw, just 8,932 people crossed the Greek-Albanian border illegaly last year. Most of them were Albanians.

Western Balkan leaders, including from Albania and Bulgaria, were expected to discuss the issue in their weekly video conference.

EU home affairs ministers, who are to meet in Brussels on Thursday, are also expected to touch on the question of alternative routes.

According to local media, Albanian authorities have already drawn up plans to provide reception centres for 10,000 Syrian refugees in the towns of Korca and Gjirokastra, near the border with Greece.

The UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR also said it is working on contingency plans.

The UNHCR, the Albanian government and local NGOs are looking at infrastructural needs and possible processing sites in Kakavia and Kapstice, also near Albania’s border with Greece.

The EU official said the possibility of novel routes is not a reason to abandon plans to stop the primary “leak” through the Greek border to Macedonia.

The EU is closely monitoring migrant flows, the official said.

Some migrants have also begun arriving to Europe from Russia in recent months, with EU diplomats suggesting that Russia is facilitating the development.

An EU source said that Russian border authorities had previously kept a tight grip on border security.

‘Sultan Erdogan’

Meanwhile, MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday criticised the EU-Turkey accord. International human rights organisations have also said it goes against international and EU law.

Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the Liberal group in the European Parliament, said it’s “a deal in which we are giving, in fact, the entrance keys, the keys to the gates of Europe, into the hands of Turkey, of the successors of the Ottoman Empire, to Erdogan, I should even say maybe to Sultan Erdogan.”

Manfred Weber, the leader of the biggest group, the centre-right European People's Party, said that the EU should not give a "blank cheque" to Turkey.

Weber also said Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s seizure of the country’s leading opposition newspaper, Zaman, last week was “unaccpetable.”

The Turkey deal was agreed politically by EU leaders and Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on Monday.

Home affairs ministers are to discuss details of the plan, which is to be adopted formally by EU leaders at another summit next week.

The Greek migration minister will also brief colleagues on new bilateral accords signed by Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Davutoglu in Turkey on Tuesday.

The bilateral arrangements are designed to make it easier to return migrants to Turkey.

Sources said some ministers are concerned by Erdogan’s crackdown on civil liberties and could bring up the Zaman issue in Thursday’s talks.

Greece and Turkey intensify joint work on migrants

Greece and Turkey sign agreements to be able to send back migrants to Turkish soil, as Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia introduce tight restrictions, essentially shutting down the route for refugees.

UN 'deeply concerned' by EU-Turkey plan

The UN has spoken out against blanket returns to Turkey after EU leaders earlier Tuesday agreed to a provisional plan to start clearing Greek islands of irregular migrants.

Interview

Albania won't become EU 'gateway,' Italian admiral says

The Western Balkan country "has very attentive border control", Italy’s former defence chief has said, adding that a deal with Russia on Syria is the best way to restore “stability”.

Danes to appeal conviction for helping refugees

A Danish couple have been fined €3,000 for giving a lift to Syrian refugees, which judges deemed to be smuggling. They plan to appeal against the verdict in order not to set a precedent.

Stakeholder

Social Europe on the Horizon

The European Union is facing the crisis of its life. The economic crisis, the nationalist response to it, the euro crisis and the lack of solidarity shown towards refugees have brought the very spirit of Europe into question.

Opinion

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

Italian refugee centre allegedly run by mafia

One of Italy's most powerful mafia syndicates, the 'Ndrangheta, allegedly stole over €32 million from a refugee centre run by a Catholic charity in southern Italy.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. EU to Trump: Defend Western values, not your interests
  2. Nato to join Trump's anti-IS coalition
  3. Trump expected to make Nato pledge
  4. Car-sharing's promise of clean cities
  5. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  6. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  7. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  8. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not