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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Teams of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, or Frontex, are joining Albania's police to patrol its land and sea borders for migrants and crime for the first time.
European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri were in Tirana Tuesday to launch "the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighboring non-EU country."
Avramopoulos said the agreement is "a milestone in the EU cooperation with the region."
"This is a real game changer and a truly historical step, bringing this region closer to the EU by working together in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on shared challenges such as better managing migration and protecting our common borders," said Avramopoulos.
Leggeri said there was no time limit or fixed mandate to the cooperation.
Fifty officers, 16 patrol cars and 1 thermo-vision van from 12 EU member countries will deploy along the Albania-Greece border.
Albania's Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said there was a six-fold increase in the number of illegal migrant crossings by the Greek border into Albania compared to a year ago. He did not give exact numbers.
Albania is not a preferred route for migrants, but some enter the tiny Western Balkan country to move toward Northern Europe.
Similar agreements have been signed with North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Albania hopes to launch negotiations to join the EU this year.
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