NCEI 2021-2023, Working Group II: Irregular migration and the increased risk of smuggling in Albania – protection of migrants’ rights and inter-institutional cooperation, 06 March 2023

On March 6, 2023, another session of the  Working Group II “Justice, Freedom, Security” was held in Tirana, on the topic “Irregular migration and the increased risk of smuggling in Albania – protection of migrants’ rights and inter-institutional cooperation”. The aim of this activity is first of all to inform about the issues regarding irregular migration, focusing on the smuggling of migrants as an increasingly evident predicament in Albania, which is turning into a challenge for authorities to prevent it as well as having negative effects on the security and rights of migrants.

The activity started with an opening speech by Gledis Gjipali, Executive Director of EMA, who spoke about the importance of tackling irregular migration and specifically migrant smuggling. In recent years, Albania has become both a country that receives but also sends migrants. Therefore, it is essential that the legislation be updated, and that effective policies with international standards are devised and fulfilled. But not only that, Gjipali spoke about the role of civil society organizations and state institutions that must play and active role and work in close cooperation to prevent this phenomenon and address the concerns it raises.

Pavel Eliáš, Deputy Director of the National Unit for Combating Irregular Migration, Border Police Office, Ministry of the Interior of Slovakia gave a presentation on the current situation of irregular migration in Slovakia, the active routes used for illegal border crossing and the measures taken by the authorities. Due to the human rights’ concerns that these situations present, it is essential that investigative operations are successful in apprehending traffickers and put an stop to these criminal groups’ activities. The Slovak expert mentioned that the cooperation with CSOs and the national telephone line to help victims of human trafficking has proved to be important for the Slovak authorities and has had positive impact. Furthermore, he talked about the close inter-institutional cooperation within the country, but also with the authorities of neighboring countries in monitoring and preventing illegal border crossing. Usually, Slovakia is used by traffickers or smugglers as a transit country in route to other European countries, so a system has been created to alert other countries. A current concern has arisen due to the conflict situation in Ukraine, bringing in refugees from Ukraine, for whom preventive and monitoring measures are being implemented.

Denard Veshi, Lecturer, Bedër University College, gave an overview of the legal and institutional framework in Albania. He talked about the European legislation and strategies on migration, reflecting on the current developments in the country in the framework of EU integration. Veshi proceeded then with the legal definitions of human trafficking and smuggling, their practical aspects and how they differentiate. He emphasized the importance of explicitly defining and codifying migrant smuggling in the national legislations, to make the fight against this phenomenon more efficient. Examples from the practice of the Albanian courts show how this criminal offense is handled in the country, in alignment with the EU and Member States’. By making interpretations of European “soft law” and decisions from foreign courts, Albanian judges are differentiating and addressing cases of human trafficking and smuggling more accurately.

The event was concluded with an open discussion between the participants. The need to increase expertise in this field, both in the police and judicial system, came into to the light as utterly important. Furthermore, the participants spoke about the creation of a strategy and preventive systems for this phenomenon, as well as about protocols related to the identification of victims at the border.