Published On: Tue, Jan 30th, 2024

Italy gets Rwanda-style migration deal with Albania approved by top court | World | News

A court in Albania has ruled that a migration deal with Italy, similar to the controversial agreement between the UK and Rwanda, can proceed.

The agreement, signed in November between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, allows for the transfer of thousands of migrants rescued at sea by Italian authorities to Albania during the processing of their asylum applications.

The head of Albania’s Constitutional Court, Holta Zacaj, affirmed the deal’s compatibility with the constitution, clearing the path for parliamentary approval. Despite opposition from 30 Albanian MPs who sought to block the ratification, the deal is now set to be debated and voted on in Parliament.

Holding 74 out of 140 seats in Parliament, Rama’s left-wing Socialist Party is expected to secure approval for the agreement. However, no specific date has been scheduled for the parliamentary debate and vote.

The deal, endorsed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen but criticised by human rights groups, is part of Meloni’s broader strategy to distribute the responsibility of addressing migration among European countries.

The International Rescue Committee warned that the agreement could force migrants onto more perilous routes in search of safety, similar to concerns raised about the UK-Rwanda treaty.

The International Organisation for Migration reported a concerning increase in fatalities, stating that nearly 100 people have died or disappeared in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of 2024. This figure is twice as high as the same period in 2023, previously considered the deadliest year for migrants at sea in Europe since 2016.

Despite the criticism, Italy’s lower chamber of parliament has already approved the deal, which will be followed by the Senate’s decision, where Meloni’s right-wing forces hold a comfortable majority.

In response to the concerns raised by human rights groups, the five-year deal dictates that Italy will fully manage two facilities in Albania, fast-tracking asylum requests.

Italy will maintain legal responsibility for the migrants throughout the process, either welcoming them if granted international protection or organising their deportation from Albania if refused.

Notably, individuals rescued within Italy’s territorial waters will retain their right, as per international and EU law, to apply for asylum in Italy and have their claims processed there.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed solidarity with Meloni, emphasising Albania’s gratitude for the refuge provided to Albanians in Italy who sought a better life following the collapse of communism in the 1990s.

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