Italy’s lower chamber of parliament on Wednesday gave the green light to a unique government deal with Albania to accommodate migrants during the processing of their asylum requests.
A key aspect of Premier Giorgia Meloni’s strategy to share the migration burden with the rest of Europe, the ‘Albania deal’ was agreed in Parliament on 24th January.
The proposal, which passed 155-115 with two abstentions in the Chamber of Deputies. It will now go on to the Senate. Meloni’s right-wing forces have a comfortable majority there too, so there should be no issue with further approval.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen previously endorsed the deal as an important initiative. She called it necessary ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to address the migration issue.
Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the groundbreaking initiative last November. However, an Albanian court then suspended ratification of the deal.
Human rights groups express concern
Human rights groups expressed concern about potential outsourcing of Italy’s international obligations. Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, stated it amounts to ” an ad hoc extra-territorial asylum regime characterised by many legal ambiguities.”
Italy’s centre-left opposition criticised the deal as an expensive exercise in propaganda. The text of the accord indicates that the deal would cost Italy nearly €600 million over five years.
Democratic lawmaker Laura Boldrini, a former spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency in Italy, said this was propaganda in as much as people would think migrants weren’t coming to Italy anymore.
Boldrini specifically criticised the preliminary screening migrants would undergo at sea aboard Italian vessels to determine vulnerability, arguing that determining such factors without guarantees was challenging. “They say, because it is not written anywhere, that no trafficking victims, women victims of rape, of torture will be sent (to Albania),” she said. “But how will they determine and screen them? It’s not like it’s written on their faces.”
Lawmaker Augusta Montaruli of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party defended the deal, stating that all legal guarantees surrounding asylum bids would be given to the migrants, both aboard ships and in Albanian centres. Montaruli argued that the deal was essential for Italy’s overall migration policy, allowing migrant processing centres to work better and faster without being overwhelmed.
“Albania is not doing anything more or less than what European member states should have done with Italy,” she said.