Fewer irregular migrants using Western Balkans for EU crossings: FRONTEX

The Western Balkans Route has witnessed the largest drop in irregular migrant crossings towards the European Union, with about 69%, for the first four months of this year compared to the same period a year earlier.

Map of the number of irregular border crossings in Europe, Jan - Apr. 2024, source: FRONTEX
 Map of the number of irregular border crossings in Europe, Jan - Apr. 2024, source: FRONTEX
According to a report published on Wednesday by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, the Western Balkans Route saw around 7,000 irregular crossings from the beginning of January to the end of April, marking the sharpest decline among the main migration routes into the European Union.

Frontex also reported that irregular border crossings into the European Union across all other routes fell by nearly a quarter in the first four months of 2024.

According to the agency's data, irregular migrants from Syria, Turkey, and Afghanistan constitute the largest number of individuals identified on the Western Balkans Route.

Migration researchers note that even when irregular migrants seek asylum, their intention is not to stay in Balkan countries but to use this practice as a means to gain time and find opportunities to move towards European countries.

The vast majority of irregular migrants, due to language barriers and weak economies in Balkan countries, struggle to integrate into the labor market.

Balkan countries themselves have been significantly affected by the emigration of their residents, and recently, in many areas, especially tourist destinations, the demand for labor has increased.

Many businesses in Albania have failed to attract labor from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, or other countries through contracts, as many cases have shown that after a short period, usually a few months, workers leave.

In April of this year, the Special Prosecution Office and the police uncovered an international smuggling scheme of workers from Bangladesh in Albania.

Following a year-long investigation, it was revealed that through the corruption of police officers, intermediary agencies, and fictitious employment contracts, the arrival of workers mainly from Bangladesh to Albania was facilitated, and then their passage to European Union countries in exchange for 5,000 euros per worker.

The Albanian Special Prosecution Office (SPAK) stated that, based on investigations conducted in collaboration with the Special Prosecution Office of the Republic of Kosovo, security measures were imposed on 26 individuals suspected of involvement in smuggling rings, of whom 21 were placed in pre-trial detention.
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