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Parliament ratified migrant agreement with Italy, AP: Rights activists concerned

Parliament ratified migrant agreement with Italy, AP: Rights activists concerned

Albania has agreed to host two migrant processing centers on its territory that will be run entirely by Italy, under a deal that worries many human rights activists. The European Union, however, sees the agreement as a possible model in the future.

Italy has long complained about a lack of sufficient help from its EU partners in dealing with migrants arriving on its shores from north Africa. Italy's right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is keen to show she is taking action after arrivals rose 55% this year to almost 160,000.

In January, Italy's lower house of parliament approved the new deal with non-EU Albania, followed a month later by the Senate.

Also in January, Albania's Constitutional Court rejected a legal challenge that could have blocked the deal. Albania's parliament approved the deal by 77 votes to zero on Thursday, with 63 lawmakers marked as absent as the opposition refused to attend. The president will also issue a decree as the final step of approval.

What is known about the deal?

Under a five-year deal announced in November, Albania will host up to 36,000 migrants a year while Rome expedites their asylum applications.

Those caught within Italian territorial waters, or by rescue vessels operated by non-governmental organisations, would retain their right under international and EU law to apply for asylum in Italy and have their claims processed. their there.

Italy has agreed to take back any migrant whose application is rejected and they are likely to be repatriated. Children and pregnant women will not be covered by the plan.

One of the processing centers will be located in the port of Shengjin, one of the main tourist areas on the Adriatic Sea, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of the Albanian capital, Tirana.

The second facility will be 20 kilometers (12 miles) north at a former military airport in Gjader. Italy will spend about 600 million euros ($650 million) over five years to build and operate the two centers under Italian jurisdiction. Up to 3,000 migrants can stay in both facilities at the same time. External security will be provided by Albanian guards.

The facilities are expected to be operational by spring.

What does Italy get?

The deal could help ease chronic overcrowding at Italy's initial asylum processing centers, which hold hundreds of thousands of migrants after dangerous sea journeys across the Mediterranean from Libya, Tunisia, Turkey and other countries.

Italy has asked for more help from its EU countries.

Many of the migrants are not eligible for asylum as they leave because of poverty, not persecution or war. While they wait for a final decision on their asylum claims, many go to northern Europe, hoping to find family or work.

What about Albania?

When the agreement was announced, Meloni said that Albania "behaves as if it were one" of the EU member states. Albania "is not only a friend of Italy, but also a friend of the European Union", she said. Many in Albania see it as a reward for Italian hospitality when thousands of Albanians fleeing poverty after the fall of communism in 1991 found refuge in Italy.

Albania, a small Western Balkan country, does not belong to the EU but is seeking membership, having started talks with Brussels last year. Despite its poverty, it has a history of accepting refugees, including members of China's Uyghur ethnic group, Afghans and dissidents from Iran, and took in a million ethnic Albanians from neighboring Kosovo during the war in 1999.

But members of Albania's center-right opposition opposed the deal on human rights grounds. Thirty opposition lawmakers went to the Constitutional Court in an unsuccessful attempt to block ratification.

What are the humanitarian and legal considerations?

Migration experts say the deal follows a worrying trend of EU countries looking beyond the bloc's borders to manage migration. Denmark has floated the idea of ​​sending asylum seekers to be held in African countries.

The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner has raised a number of concerns, including whether migrants will have access to adequate legal aid.

The European Commission, which oversees the implementation of EU laws, left the door open to the deal, as long as it only applies to migrants caught in international waters.

The Institute for Migration Policy in Europe says the agreement does not outline which migration procedures will be followed, leaving open questions about how exactly the process would work. AP

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