iropygy – In the early 1990s, thousands of poor Albanian migrants attacked an oak forest near the village of Yellow Piggy, dodging Greek border guards after the collapse of Albanian communism.
Thirty years later, the cross-border flow was reversed, albeit on a much smaller scale. This time, people from the Middle East and Africa flew around the same oak forest, this time from Greece to Albania, during a long journey to Central Europe.
Since 2018, migrants and refugees who want to try their luck in a place richer than Greece have made this relatively smooth and steep border a major way out of the country by land.
Michaelis Trasias, a 69-year-old shepherd who herds sheep in the Greek part of the border, told The Associated Press that she had been seeing the group every day traveling to Albania.
“A huge number of refugees cross into the hundreds,” he said. “The border is only 100 meters (yards) away from here. What Albanians capture are sent back. Only those who manage it know where to go.”
There are many options for migrants and refugees who do not want to live in Greece, but they are all illegal. Boat smuggling to Italy or the smuggler’s berth. Take a plane with fake paper. Or take a walk in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Albania.
In addition, Bulgaria is considered very dangerous, and North Macedonia is becoming more and more cautious, despite increased patrols by the EU’s border coast guard authorities. I have chosen Albania. Albania has seen an increase in arrests for illegal infiltration this year, according to police data, while North Macedonia (10,000 people awaiting invasion five years ago) has registered a decline.
Albanian Interior Ministry spokesman Ardian Beta said his country was “doing everything in its power to combat organized crime” in support of transport migrants and arrested “a significant number” of smugglers this year.
The main grounds of the square are the abandoned military guardhouses – filthy and dilapidated – hundreds of meters from the border, a 30-minute walk from the nearest Greek village of Yellow Piggy, 220 km (140 mi) to the west. This is the surrounding forest. Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Water comes from the pumping station, from which some people use electricity to charge their phones.
During the AP’s visit, about 50 people were camping in the area, waiting for a fee from smugglers to attempt the crossing alone, or for a fee. The population can reach hundreds, most of whom are regularly rounded up and removed by the Greek police. Some people live longer.
Among them, Sudanese Sheikh Musa Abdullah stayed with his wife and five children aged 5 to 15 for 50 days in a dilapidated former guardhouse.
He told the AP that he “tried six crossings so far” to Albania in hopes of continuing to Serbia. “But Frontex stopped me. It is very easy for others to cross, but it is very difficult for my family.”
Abdullah said he had been living in Greece for the past three years and was now proposing to abandon efforts to move forward.
Syria’s Mohamed Noor Mahmoud al-Damad has also been deported six times in the last seven days. However, he is traveling without children and is determined to survive after being denied asylum in Greece.
“I want to leave and go to another country,” he said, cooking potatoes with fellow Syrians under a tree. “I don’t want to go to Europe. Only Albania or Kosovo. I want a good life.”
That’s what 30-year-old Hussam Haderi wishes to do, but also suggests looking for it abroad.
“I want to go to Albania, then Kosovo, then Bosnia, then Italy,” said the Syrian Palestinians. “I have a family and two children in Syria. When I get there, I’ll take them to stay with me.”
Haderi had arrived in Greece a month earlier and was crossed by people smugglers across the border from Turkey to Thessaloniki. He said he was determined to pay smugglers €2,200 ($2,570) to reach Iropigi and head north.
“Frontex is a big problem,” he said. “For a month I’ve always been trying to move to (Albania), but they keep sending me back.”
Lazarus Seminy in Tirana, Albania and Konstantin Testorides in Skopje, North Macedonia, contributed to the story.
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