World News

Albania getting Italian help on border security against migrants

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania is getting Italian help to improve security measures along its border with Greece in case migrants barred from taking the main Balkan route to the European Union try to go via Albanian territory instead, a Tirana official said on Tuesday.

Under a 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, said.

The agreement is expected to be finalised when Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano visits Albania next week.

With Macedonia and other states the so-called Western Balkan corridor route to the EU having sealed their frontiers, there has been speculation that migrants will seek out alternative routes to try to reach destinations in western Europe.

Albania is cited as a possible option although there has been no sign of migrants trying it so far.

Italy fears Islamist militants could slip through undetected if crowds of refugees were to enter Albania and ultimately reach Italy, according to Albanian security sources.

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.

Albanian officials are adamant however that authorities there will not permit a people-smuggling route to Italy to start up again.

Speaking in Brussels last week, Alfano said he would visit Albania soon to work with authorities there to “do everything possible to prevent terrorism and illegal migration”.

Reporting by Benet Koleke, additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome; Editing by Adrian Croft/Mark Heinrich