EU and the Balkans co-operate against human trafficking

29/07/2014

Germany and France have agreed to establish joint expert working groups with Albania and Serbia.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 29/07/14

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The European Union and Balkan countries are taking additional measures to undermine human trafficking. [AFP]

The EU is engaging Balkan countries to slow the tide of human trafficking from the Middle East, Africa and Asia by providing additional support for refugees who legally arrive in Union states.

The EU said it stands ready to provide up to 6,000 euros for each refugee admitted to member states, said Michele Cercone, European Commission Home Affairs spokesperson.

Cercone said the European Commission has proposed that member states relocate part of the refugees from the refugee camps to third-party states via UN projects.

About 4,500 persons were relocated in 11 EU member states in 2012.

"There are 17 countries that can do much more and their actions can mark the difference between life and death for many persons. If all member states join their attempts in the relocation programs ... we will be able to relocate tens of thousands of more persons," Cercone said.

About 800 immigrants have been intercepted by Albanian police this year on their way to western EU countries, having initially made their way to Greece.

Vlora police reported it arrested an Albanian citizen after he trafficked people from Syria, Eritrea and Senegal on 17 occasions.

Police said traffickers charge 2,000 euros on a route that usually carries immigrants via the route from Greece to Serbia, or from Greece to Albania and Montenegro.

Trafficking has become one of the most profitable activities in the Mediterranean, especially after the police more effectively suppressed drug trafficking, said Ilir Kulla, former advisor to the Albania president.

"The trafficking routes are not new, they were used back in the 1990s to traffic Chinese, Kurds as well as local immigrants by boats to Italy," Kulla told SETimes.

Germany and France agreed to establish joint expert working groups with Albania and Serbia against organised crime, including human trafficking. Germany and France interior ministers Thomas De Maziere and Bernard Cazeneuve visited Albania and Serbia earlier this month to define options for co-operation.

"We are determined to fight jointly ... the human trafficking networks," Cazeneuve said.

They agreed to improve initially the National Bureau of Investigation's capacity to deal with trafficking, said Albania interior minister Saimir Tahiri.

Tahiri said a group of experts from the three countries' law enforcement agencies will review the specific areas of co-operation.

In Serbia, France and Germany announced they will pass laws that will put Serbia on the list of safe countries of origin, thereby preventing the inflow of asylum seekers.

EU said criminal networks' operational bases must be destroyed, which necessitates co-operation with countries of origin and transit of immigrants.

"This dialogue that we have translated in the terms of the agreement for partnership of mobility ... and with the re-admission agreement with Turkey, has also the advantage of facilitating the development of the legal channels of immigration, thus reducing the pressure of the irregular flux," Cercone told SETimes.

The EU also approved a European Union maritime security strategy to secure its maritime security interests against risks and threats including cross-border crime and organised crime.

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Stricter EU regulations will be very useful, but Serbia is working hard too, said Nenad Banovic, chairman of the visa-free regime monitoring commission.

"The border police has put great effort into reducing the number of false asylum seekers, checking passengers more rigorously and asking to see -- aside from their passports -- their return tickets, an agency voucher or a certain amount of money," Banovic told SETimes.

Correspondent Bojana Milovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

What can the Balkan countries do to stem human trafficking? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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