Albanian navy extends help for EU's maritime border mission

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's Defense Ministry has extended for a year its navy's participation in the search-and-rescue operations of European Union border control force Frontex.

Defense Minister Olta Xhacka on Wednesday said the mission, mainly in the Aegean Sea, will continue in 2019. Albania's navy contributes one warship to the operations.

Xhacka said Albanian sailors have "saved thousands of human lives" during the last two years when refugees have tried to cross from Turkey to Greece.

It's the first time Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has taken part in the Western military alliance's maritime missions.

Local media reported Wednesday that six Palestinian and three Syrian refugees were detained a day earlier while trying to cross on foot into southeastern Albania, coming from neighboring Greece. They were questioned and sent to a shelter near the capital, Tirana.

Earlier in December, 18 other refugees from Syria, Morocco and Afghanistan were taken into the custody in the same location, all aiming to reach wealthier EU member countries.

Though not a preferred route, many migrants try to enter Albania to move toward Northern Europe.

Albania has signed an agreement allowing EU border guards to enter and help the Balkan country control illegal migration.

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