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Albanian Parliament Ratifies Italy Migration Deal

Albanian parliament ratified a migration deal with Italy that entails Italy building two migrant centres within the country. The agreement is meant to help Italy cope with processing migrant asylum applications from those rescued at sea, housing them in Albania until their application is finished being processed. The two centres are meant to be strategically located near the port of Shengjin.

Under the deal, for five years, Albania would shelter up to 3,000 migrants at any time, and looking at prevailing migration rates, the number of migrants could go up to 36,000. Under this framework, one centre will house the migrants while the other will be used to process all their applications. 

Additionally, these two centres are a severe financial endeavour for Italy, with them bearing the cost of approximately 600 million euros to build them. These facilities will also operate under Italian legal jurisdiction, even having certain immunity from Albanian law. After a migrant's asylum claim has been processed, the Italian government will be responsible for resetting or repatriating them.

Challenges from Albanian opposition 

Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama signed the agreement on November 6, 2023. The Italian Senate ratified the agreement on February 15, 2024, and was awaiting Albanian ratification. 

The agreement was temporarily blocked in Albania when opposition members filed two petitions, thrusting the issue into legal turmoil. They called the agreement unconstitutional and also were of the view that the agreement would be denying asylum seekers the protections they are granted under the Albanian constitution and international law. However, Albania's Constitutional Court voted in favour of the agreement, stating that 'it was in accordance with the constitution' and could be implemented if ratified. The Court also noted that the agreement does not create any new rights and freedoms for migrants and does not restrict the ones granted to them either.

Another major criticism by the opposition was that the agreement was a way to cede Albanian sovereignty to Italy. The Constitutional Court also negated this claim as it was held that the agreement 'does not set territorial borders nor does it change the territorial integrity of the Republic of Albania.'

It is worthy of note that many Albanian media outlets reported that the judges' vote was 5-4 to reject the petitions of the opposition. This underscores the contentious nature of the topic and could indicate that the opposition's claims may have some validity.

International Reactions 

Various NGOs and human rights organisations criticised the deal as violating international law. Concerns primarily were about arbitrary detention, the right to seek asylum and living conditions within the centres.  

The Senior Director for European Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, Imogen Sudbery, described the deal as 'inhumane', further emphasising that this deal follows the trend of preventing people from reaching Europe and welcoming migrants with the dignity and respect that they deserve. 

The Platform for Undocumented Migrants said this on X (formerly known as Twitter): 


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, told the Italian Senate of his concerns regarding the agreement. He raised that the migrant centres could raise worries about arbitrary detention and unacceptable living conditions. 

It is worth noting that the European Union has said that the agreement does not breach European law. The EU Migration Commissioner, Ylva Johannson, stated that a preliminary legal assessment done by their legal team indicates this is outside the framework of EU law. Italy, an EU member state, and Albania, a non-EU member, have come into this agreement, meaning it is not within the bounds of the European treaties, and the EU cannot apply its laws to Albania. 

In conclusion, the ratification of the migration deal between Albania and Italy has stirred a whirlwind of debate encompassing legal, humanitarian, and sovereignty concerns. Despite the Constitutional Court's endorsement and the EU's stance, fears of compromised rights and dignity for asylum seekers cannot be ignored. It is essential to see how the migrant centres help streamline the migration process and whether they make it easier to seek asylum in Italy or are just another way to bate the arrival of migrants in Europe.


Edited by: Vidhi Dujodwala


Image Source: El País

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