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Albania ratifies migrant deal with Italy

February 22, 2024

Albania's parliament has approved a deal under which it can build processing centers for migrants run by Italy. The deal has been slammed by the opposition and rights groups.

Rescue boat approaching a vessel carrying migrants
Under the deal, migrants rescued in Italian waters will be held in Albania while their asylum applications are processedImage: David Lohmueller/Sea-Watch/dpa/picture alliance

Albania's parliament on Thursday ratified a migration deal with Italy allowing it to host two holding centers for migrants rescued in Italian waters.

The deal was approved by 77 members of the 140-seat legislature.

What does the deal entail?

Under the five-year agreement, Italy will open two camps in the Balkan country, one of which would screen migrants on arrival and the other would detain them while their asylum applications are processed. 

Migrants would then either be allowed to enter Italy or be returned to their country of origin.

The camps would hold up to 3,000 migrants. As processing of asylum requests will likely take a month or so, up to 36,000 asylum seekers could be sent to Albania per year.

The agreement was signed in November between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, who is trying to make tackling migration more of a joint endeavor by European countries as her country faces growing numbers of migrant arrivals.  

Albanians divided over migrant camp deal with Italy

Criticism of the Italy-Albania migrant deal

Although the deal has been endorsed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, human rights groups have vehemently criticized it.

Albania's opposition also reiterated its rejection of the agreement following Thursday's vote.

"The migrant deal harms national security, territorial integrity and the public's interest," right-wing opposition leader Gazmend Bardhi told reporters. 

Albania and the EU

Albania is a small, post-Communist country in the western Balkans. It is not a member of the EU, but applied for membership in 2009. It was granted candidate staus in 2014.

Italy's Meloni said the deal showed that Albania "behaves" as if it were a member state.

Albania "is not only a friend of Italy, but also a friend of the European Union," she said.

tj/wd (Reuters, AFP, AP)