Albania seeks Italian help to prevent migrant surge

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An Albanian police officer patrols at the Albanian-Greek border in Carshove near the city of Permet on Tuesday. Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP
08:33 CET+01:00
Albania is asking for Italy's help to prevent it from becoming swamped by migrants desperate to reach northern Europe, Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said on Tuesday.

"Albania has sought Italy's help to strengthen its border controls and cope with the various security problems should there be a flow of migrants heading towards the Albanian frontier," Tahiri told a press conference.

"Albania cannot cope with a wave of migrants by itself," he said.

Albania has had relatively few migrants crossing its borders on the route which stretches from Greece to Germany and Sweden.

But it fears an influx after Macedonia closed off its border to migrants coming from Greece, the starting point on the Balkans section of the trail.

Fears of an 'Adriatic route' opening up from Albania to Italy's southern Puglia region have also been stoked, especially among tour operators, who worry that the potential influx could damage the region's vital tourism sector.

Read more: Puglia fears potential refugee influx will deter tourists

Tahiri said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano would visit Tirana, the Albanian capital, next week to discuss a joint response in the event of a massive influx of migrants.

Albania is hoping for technical support and personnel to help its police check and record migrant entries and to verify documents.

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is expected for talks in Tirana on Friday.

Albania is awaiting "an overall decision" at European level for coping with the crisis but "in any case does not intend to open its borders to migrants," Tahiri said.

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He added that that "for now," the situation was "calm."

"The police have stepped up controls and for the moment there haven't been any attempts by migrants to cross the Albanian border," the minister said.

More than a million migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe since last year, plunging the continent into its worst migration crisis since the Second World War.

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