Italy says migrant pact with Albania isn’t comparable to UK-Rwanda plan

Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama welcomes Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni before the EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana, Albania, December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Florion Goga/File Photo
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama

Italy’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that the country’s proposal to establish migrant camps in Albania cannot be compared to the United Kingdom’s proposal to transfer undocumented asylum seekers to Rwanda and that the procedures involved would guarantee the rights of refugees.

The right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni unveiled the concept earlier this month as part of their ongoing efforts to decrease the number of migrants leaving Africa and relieve congestion on detention facilities across the country.

For the first time, Italy will construct two camps in Albania to receive and detain up to 3,000 migrants at a time. This is the first time a non-EU country has agreed to take migrants on behalf of a member state.

Turkey and the EU reached an agreement in 2016 to stop individuals traveling irregularly into the EU.

“Migrants will be treated according to Italian and European standards,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani declared at a lower house of parliament meeting devoted to the agreement, a statement that infuriated human rights organizations and the socialist opposition.

Tajani referred to the British proposal that the UK’s highest courts have ruled is illegal when he said, “This Protocol is not comparable to the agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda.”

Only migrants who are illegally in Italy would be sent to Albania, Tajani informed parliamentarians, provided that the coast guard or navy picks them up in international waters and verifies that no minors or expectant mothers will be allowed to stay there. He claimed that up to 18 months may pass while people wait to be repatriated.

According to the agreement that Reuters saw, the camps will operate under Italian control and start in the spring of 2024.

Tajani informed MPs that Italy would pay 16.5 million euros ($18.00 million) for the initial charges and cover all other costs, including those associated with constructing and maintaining the centers.

Legislators from the opposition have been pressuring Meloni to ask the parliament to approve the agreement she reached with her colleague Edi Rama in Albania, even though the government claimed that Italian law did not require it.

But Tajani, who led the coalition Forza Italia party after Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation as prime minister, stated the government would formally file a bill to ratify the agreement with Albania.

“We hope it can be approved in a time frame that is consistent with the urgency of tackling the management of growing migration flows,” he stated.

Approximately 150,000 maritime migrants have reached Italy thus far in 2022, in contrast to approximately 94,000 during the same period in 2022.

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