The flagship measure against illegal immigration by Giorgia Meloni, Italian Prime Minister, lasts a little over a month. Albania’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday suspended the agreement signed by Prime Minister Edi Rama with his Italian counterpart to build identification and control centers in the Balkan country for migrants rescued in Italian waters. The agreement, which should materialize in 2024, represents a real qualitative leap in the project of clandestine expulsion of migrants and outsourcing of detention centers to relieve pressure within national borders and avoid popular rejection. But the Albanian Constitutional Court accepted an appeal against the measure and is freezing the decision until it rules on the merits of the issue within three months.
Italy was thus following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which had approved in 2022 the sending of asylum seekers to Rwanda and locking us up in centers similar to those that Albania was designing. The measure was declared illegal by the UK Supreme Court, a rejection that Rishi Sunak’s government is trying to overcome by approving a new deportation law. The agreement signed between Italy and Albania last November seems doomed to go through the courts. Italian government sources, however, said they were not worried and believed the Albanian court’s decision would ultimately be positive.
Meloni, whose immigration policy has so far been a failure, announced the deal with great fanfare. Italian reception centers are completely overwhelmed by the latest waves of migrant influx. In total, around 146,000 people have arrived on Italian shores so far this year, well above the 90,000 arrivals in the same period of 2022 and the 55,000 in 2021, according to data from the Italian Ministry of the Interior. It is for this reason that Meloni celebrated the agreement as a measure of relief from the social and political pressure he is experiencing in this matter and expressed his support for Albania’s entry into the European Union .
The far-right leader also defended the agreement with Albania, although the country is not part of the European Union or the Schengen area and is therefore not participating in the migration pact negotiations with Brussels. “Collaboration between EU countries and third countries is decisive,” he maintained before explaining that the jurisdiction of these structures will be Italian and that Albania will be in charge of external surveillance.
The decision of the Albanian court, however, comes on the day when the European Commission, which had stressed that a priori This does not appear to violate European law, but he needs more data on the measure, and he praised and almost blessed Tirana and Rome’s plan. In a letter sent to heads of state and government to take stock of migration policy, the president of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, assured that the agreement between Italy and Albania “serves example of innovative thinking, based on a fair distribution of responsibilities with third countries in accordance with obligations arising from international and EU law.
The European Union is increasingly tough on immigration and seeks to conclude agreements with countries of origin and transit to speed up returns and get them to collaborate in the management of migratory flows. Agreements like the controversial one with Tunisia, which fundamentally relies on funds in exchange for avoiding departures to Europe. Brussels now has other similar agreements in its portfolio – still being developed and negotiated – with Senegal, Egypt and Mauritania.
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The agreement between Tirana and Rome provides for the creation on Albanian territory of centers with a capacity of up to 3,000 people which, once operational from spring 2024, will be able to accommodate an annual flow of up to 36,000 migrants . These spaces will essentially be used to carry out the first identification and control procedures, and will manage asylum requests and the repatriation work of those who do not obtain refugee status. Migrants rescued by Italian authorities in the Mediterranean will arrive at these facilities, while those rescued by NGO ships will continue to arrive at Italian ports. The measure also excludes immigrants arriving on their own on the Italian coast, who will be taken care of there, as well as minors, pregnant women and vulnerable people who require immediate assistance.
Italy, basically, would sublet these spaces and turn them into national territory from the point of view of immigration jurisdiction. “The objectives of the agreement are to combat human trafficking, prevent irregular flows and welcome only those who are truly entitled to international protection,” Meloni underlined on the day of the presentation.
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