The Italian Military are negotiating a deal to help Albania secure its border with Greece, fearing smugglers are poised to transport migrants and Jihadist by boat, straight to Italy.Albania has already increased patrols (pictured above) along its border with Greece, as migrants desperately search to reopen the ‘Balkans route’ to the Welfare states of Northern Europe after Macedonia to closed its borders on the 2oth of February.
With Macedonia now returning thousands of migrants to Greece when they find ways around their new fence, and Bulgaria using their military to patrol the fence, Albania is the next obvious target.
The agreement will be finalised when Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano visits Albania next week. Speaking in Brussels last week, Mr. Alfano said Italy would work with Albania to “do everything possible to prevent terrorism and illegal migration”.
Italy is reported to be concerned about Islamist militants slipping through undetected if crowds of migrants were to enter Albania and ultimately reach Italy, security sources told Reuters.
Albanian smugglers were notorious for using speedboats to ferry would-be migrants, guns and narcotics across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, as close as 62 nautical miles (115 km) away, in the 1990s. Some drug smuggling, especially of cannabis, still goes on today.
There remains upwards of 40,000 migrants trapped in Greece. The Greek government has offered them free buses back to Athens, the Greek capital, where they will be sent on to brand new registration centres that can comfortably house 50,000 people.
However, the majority are refusing to register as they plan to travel on to Northern Europe illegally.
Under the deal being worked out, Italy would help Albania to record the biometric data of refugees entering the country and to electronically share information on their identities and the route they had taken with EU border agency Frontex and possibly Greece, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, to the north and west, migrants are redoubling their efforts to get through Bulgaria and Serbia.
A Serbian customs spokeswoman said Tuesday that 33 migrants trying to cross into Serbia from Macedonia had been found in an empty cargo train. The group, aged between 18 and 26, were mainly Afghans, but also included Syrians and Libyans. All but one were men.
“Coming in through Bulgaria – it’s an old smuggling route and it’ll be used more often”, an Afghans migrant in Turkey told the BBC. “It’s cheaper to come that way [than the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece] and anyway we can’t swim”, he said.
(Reuters contributed to this report)