Italy will build centers in Albania to deport immigrants rescued at sea | International

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The Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, had been strengthening ties with the Albanian Executive for months. In fact, this summer she spent her vacation on her borders and promoted the benefits of said country. This Monday, she presented some of the fruits that this diplomatic courtship has produced with a country that aspires to soon enter the European Union. Italy, the ultra leader announced, will build identification and reception centers in Albania for migrants rescued by its rescue teams in the Mediterranean. The agreement, signed with his Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama and which will be materialized in 2024, represents a real leap in the project of covertly deporting migrants and outsourcing detention centers to relieve pressure within national borders and avoid popular rejection. Italy thus follows in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, which in 2022 approved sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. The measure was initially stopped by the courts, but later received the endorsement of the High Court of England and Wales, although there is still a judicial path to block or give way to this practice.

Meloni could not hide his satisfaction with the agreement reached in Rome. Especially after having collected failures in immigration policy — the area that in theory should characterize his political project — since he came to power a year ago. "Albania confirms itself as a friendly nation and, although it is not yet part of the European Union, it behaves as if it were a member country," he said this Monday after signing the pact in Rome, which he placed in Italy's continued support for the “EU enlargement in the Western Balkans”. The harmony between both countries is now total. The Albanian leader, in fact, responded like this: “If Italy calls, Albania is there. Geography is now Italy's curse. “If you enter Italy, you enter Europe.” In summary, Italy becomes the main sponsor of Albania, a country from which part of the immigration that the transalpine country received traditionally came, for its entry into the European Union.

The agreement provides for the creation in Albanian territory of centers with a capacity of up to 3,000 people which, once operational from spring 2024, will be able to receive an annual flow of up to 36,000 migrants. These spaces will fundamentally serve to carry out the initial identification and control procedures, and will manage asylum applications and the repatriation work of those who do not receive refugee status. Migrants rescued by the Italian authorities in the Mediterranean will arrive at these facilities, while those saved by NGO ships will continue to arrive at Italian ports. The measure also excludes immigrants who arrive on their own to the Italian coast, who will be cared for there, and minors, pregnant women and vulnerable people who require immediate assistance.

That is to say, Italy basically subleases those spaces and converts them into national territory from the point of view of jurisdiction. “The objectives of the agreement are to counter human trafficking, prevent irregular flows and welcome only those who truly have the right to international protection,” Meloni stressed. The idea, whose fit with community law is doubtful, has already been tried by the United Kingdom (already outside the EU). The project was initially overturned by the courts, which considered that there were “solid bases to believe that there was a real risk that people sent to that country” would be “returned to their countries of origin and end up suffering persecution or inhumane treatment, when "In fact, they would have arguments to receive asylum." Finally, the High Court of England and Wales considered the measure legal, although there is still the possibility of an appeal so that it can be applied.

Italian reception centers are completely overwhelmed with the latest waves of arrivals. In total, 145,314 migrants have arrived on Italian shores so far this year, well above the 88,095 who arrived in the same period of 2022 and the 54,733 in 2021, according to data updated by the Italian Ministry of the Interior as of June 6. of November. One of the most affected points is Lampedusa, which this summer was completely overwhelmed by arrivals.

The far-right leader defended the agreement with Albania, despite the fact that the country is not part of the European Union or the Schengen area and, therefore, does not participate in the negotiations of the migration pact with Brussels. “Collaboration between EU and non-EU states is decisive,” she argued before explaining that the jurisdiction of these structures will be Italian and that Albania will be in charge of external surveillance.

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