Why Europe’s big cannabis route is so hard to shut

By Kostas Koukoumakas

“Now we’re on their turf,” says one of the three Greek drug enforcement officers, walking, guns at the ready and bloated in their bulletproof vests.

A short distance ahead lies the porous border with Albania. This is the biggest land route for cannabis trafficking in Europe.

The Greek border village of Haravgi Ioannina is nearby, but there is no barbed wire or any other barrier to mark the frontier.

“Cannabis is trafficked on foot by Albanians who live in villages on the other side of the border,” says Greek officer Lambros Tsoumanis, who spends much of his time patrolling these mountains. “They are hardy, tough people and know all the crossings like the back of their hand. They can survive for days in the forest.”

Greek police have confiscated 1.5 tonnes of cannabis since the beginning of the year. The previous two years, they seized almost nine tonnes.

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