Albania’s Police chief Ardi Veliu announced on March 17 that officers, with the help of agencies in the European Union and the United States, successfully cracked down on smugglers. Some 39 arrests were made, he said.

The smuggling network comprised seven groups operating in Albania, Bulgaria, Spain, France, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Britain, Ireland, the US and Canada,  Veliu said.

To reach the US and Canada, the smuggled people reportedly paid between €19,500 and €24,400. For €8,000, the smuggled Albanians obtained falsified travel and identity documents of EU countries so they could enter North America and Britain, which lies outside Europe’s nominally borderless Schengen Zone.

As reported Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, some had also travelled via the Dominican Republic or South American countries to gain entry to the US and Canada.

Police working with Europol and Interpol had confiscated computers, mobile telephones, vehicles, cash, various documents and weapons, Veliu said.

According to DW, fighting crime remains a key task for Albania, a Nato member since 2009, which also hopes to begin talks in June to eventually enter the EU.

In a separate report, the Reuters news agency noted that Albania has stepped up its fight against crime in a drive to convince the European Union to agree to start accession negotiations this June.