Albania’s top court has given approval to a controversial deal allowing Rome to redirect asylum seekers, attempting to reach Italy, to the western Balkan nation. Two asylum centres are “in line with consitution”
This move, unprecedented in the EU, faced opposition in Albania, with concerns about its legality and impact on human rights. On Monday, Chief Justice Holta Zacaj declared the pact “in line with the constitution.”
The deal, announced in November by Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, involves Italy establishing two asylum centres in Albania to process claims. The agreement now heads to the Albanian parliament for consideration.
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government, struggling to fulfil its pledge to reduce unauthorised migrant arrivals, sees the deal as an “innovative solution.” Last week, the bill was passed by Italy’s Lower House. It now requires Senate approval.
Italy aims to alleviate pressure on local communities by processing asylum claims in Albania. The country witnessed over 155,750 irregular migrants arriving in 2023, a 50% increase from 2022. Meloni also sees the deal as a way to accelerate asylum claims. She is hoping the asylum centres will process 36,000 people annually.
Construction of migrant holding centres
The agreement includes the construction of two migrant holding centres in Albania with a capacity of around 3,000 people each.
The first facility in Shëngjin will handle initial processing. The second of the asylum centres, located at a disused cold war-era airfield, will house applicants awaiting decisions. Albania will receive €16.5million from Italy for hosting the centres, with Italy covering building and operating costs estimated at €53million for this year.
The Albanian opposition, which challenged the deal in the constitutional court, raised concerns about a lack of public consultation and potential human rights violations. Critics argue against using Albania to instil fear in migrants wanting to reach Europe. Albania’s opposition lawmaker, Gazment Bardhi, stated, “The best way to deal with it is not individually but collectively . . . [but] we can’t accept that our country is used to instil fear in people who want to come to Europe.”
Despite criticism, the European Commission welcomed the deal. It considers it an “important initiative” and an example of “fair sharing of responsibilities with third countries.”
Germany and other EU countries are exploring the feasibility of similar arrangements. Michael Spindelegger, head of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, anticipates that this might set a precedent for offshore asylum procedures in the EU.