Thursday

18th Jul 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

News in Brief

  1. Nato chief warns world against more Russian missiles
  2. Germany closes Amazon probe as EU opens another
  3. Report: US chipmaker Qualcomm set for new EU fine
  4. Ireland fears Brexit time zone split
  5. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  6. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  7. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon
  8. Report: France to back Kovesi for EU prosecutor

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  2. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  3. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  4. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  5. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  6. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  7. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  8. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us