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Albania: Tirana Accuses Elements In Greece Of Helping Kurdish Refugees

Albania's Intelligence Service (SHISH) says it has evidence that elements in Greece are supporting organized human trafficking, especially of Kurdish refugees from Turkey and Iraq. RFE/RL's Alban Bala reports from Tirana on an Albanian intelligence-service report to parliament.

Tirana, 26 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Fatos Klosi, the head of SHISH, Albania's Intelligence Service, this week told a parliamentary committee for public order that he believes Greek elements are helping Kurdish refugees on their way to Italy via Albania.

Earlier this year, Italian authorities estimated that some 5,000 illegal refugees were reaching Italy every month.

Committee chairman Spartak Poci, who was Albania's minister for public order until last year, said elements in Greece are providing refugees with false residence permits to facilitate their entry into Albania and eventually the West.

"[In the report,] Greece was accused of supporting trafficking of people. This declaration or complaint by the Intelligence Service (SHISH) chairman especially concerns the Kurdish element. He said the Kurds in Greece are well-treated and, although they are clandestine, they are being supplied with false Greek residence permits, thus gaining an illusory status to prepare them for crossing over to Albania and on to Italy and the West."

The Greek Embassy in Tirana declined to comment on the allegations.

Klosi himself was not available for comment.

Poci said intelligence reports also say one of the main routes for smuggling narcotics to Italy has shifted to southern Albania, in addition to the already-existing strong channel linking Albania with Kosovo and Serbia.

"Even though the trafficking routes have changed, Serbia and Montenegro continue to be considered to be ideal countries for trafficking. The exit to the sea of their traffic routes goes through Albania and Montenegro," Poci said.

The committee chairman also said human traffickers continue to be active. He said traffickers are moving women targeted for prostitution from Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania into Albania through Kosovo and Montenegro.

Poci said organized crime enjoys support from some Albanian politicians and that the struggle against it remains weak. "There's no doubt that organized crime enjoys a certain political support. Otherwise, organized crime could not develop and move forward in the country. For the sake of truth, we should admit that recently the fight against it has not increased. Albania ranks in first place for failing to fight trafficking effectively."

In a recent report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department designated Albania as a "tier-three" country, the worst designation.