21st Mar 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.


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.


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.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

News in Brief

  1. EU to have 'immediate' trade talks with Trump
  2. Separatist activist renounces Catalonia leadership candidacy
  3. EU puts conditions on Bayer-Monsanto merger
  4. Hard Brexit would hit poorer Irish households hardest
  5. Finland hosts secretive North Korean talks
  6. EU to unveil 3% tax on digital giants
  7. German elected S&D leader in European Parliament
  8. Germany: nearly €350m child benefit goes abroad

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  2. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  3. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  4. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  5. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  6. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions
  7. EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints
  8. Five east European states prevent new CAP consensus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections