Deadly crash near Albanian-Greek border puts spotlight on Balkan irregular migration route 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 2, 2024 12:34

Deadly crash near Albanian-Greek border puts spotlight on Balkan irregular migration route 

Story Highlights

  • Seven non-European irregular migrants and their Albanian driver were killed on Tuesday in a vehicle crash as they attempted to avoid a police road stop in southern Albania.

Related Articles

TIRANA, April 2, 2024 - Eight people died in the early hours of Tuesday in southern Albania, near the Greek border, as an Albanian driver speed up and fell into a ravine trying to avoid a police checkpoint because he was carrying seven non-European irregular migrants across Albania on their way from Greece to the Western Europe. 

Authorities are still trying to piece together the details of the 4:30 a.m. single vehicle crash on the Këlcyrë-Përmet road which hugs the Greek border, but police note that preliminary data suggests that the migrants appeared to have crossed the border illegally in the area Three Bridges border area and where picked up by the driver, a  21-year-old from Shkodra, on the other side of Albania. 

During the journey from Përmet to Këlcyrë, the vehicle turned back when it encountered a police patrol, it then traveled at high speed, which led to loss of control and falling from a considerable height into the Vjosa River Valley.

Police said they have only identified the driver and they are working to identify the foreign nationals who died so they can inform their countries and families.

-Irregular migration route well known to authorities-

Albanian police stops of irregular migrants from the Middle East and Africa being smuggled across Albania are not unusual in the area, but the deadly crash is a grim reminder of the human toll of irregular migration and the ongoing use of what has been dubbed the “Balkan Route” -- migrants moving from Greece to Western Europe via the Western Balkans.

After crossing the Greek-Albanian border, migrants are trafficked northwards, towards the north of the country, to be further transported to Montenegro or Kosovo. Over the past year, the number of those passing through Albania has decreased, however. 

According to Frontex data, fewer than 9,000 irregular foreign migrants were detected on Albanian territory, the majority of whom entered from Greece, at the Qafë Botë checkpoint in Sarandë.

Albania was the first country in the Western Balkans to sign agreements with Frontex in May 2019 for border control. Currently, 162 European border guards are working alongside the Albanian Border Police to address the third country migrants.

On the so-called "Balkan Route" for the passage of irregular migrants, primarily entering from Greece, during the past year, according to Frontex data, nearly 99,000 individuals have moved, the overwhelming majority being Afghan and Syrian nationals. Compared to 2023, this marks a decrease of 31 percent.

The route through Albania is only a minor avenue of irregular migration and asylum seeking journeys to wealthier EU countries as the vast majority happens through the Mediterranean Route or through the Eastern Route, but the Balkan Route has the distinction of being the only one in which migrants leave the EU -- Greece -- to go through non-EU territory -- the Western Balkans -- to then enter EU again further north.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 2, 2024 12:34