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Italy to send migrants to reception centers in Albania

November 7, 2023

Italy plans to construct two migrant centers in Albania to temporarily accommodate migrants rescued at sea. It's the first agreement of its kind between an EU member country and a non-EU state.

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during a meeting with Albania's Prime Minister, Edi Rama, at Chigi Palace in Rome.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (right) signed the agreement with Albania's Edi Rama during a meeting in RomeImage: Filippo Attil/Chigi Press Office/Zumapress/picture alliance

Italy will build centers in Albania to host tens of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean while authorities assesses their asylum requests, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Monday.

The initiative was announced after Meloni met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Rome.

Italy will pay the expenses to construct the two centers at the port of Shengjin and the Gjader area in northwest Albania.

Meloni said the centers would host nearly 3,000 people when they open in 2024. She said the Italian government hopes to scale up its capacity to process 36,000 migrants annually.

Thousands of migrants arrive on Lampedusa

Minors and pregnant women will not be sent to the centers, the Italian premier told the media. If the asylum bids are rejected by Italy, Albania would deport the migrants.

The centers will be under Italian jurisdiction and Albania would provide external security for the facilities, Meloni added.

Meloni promises to curb a rise in illegal Mediterranean crossings

Meloni won elections last year after vowing to stop illegal migration to Italy.

Her far-right Brothers of Italy party had been calling  for such centers to be set up outside Europe, proposing regions like North Africa, but no country from that region had accepted the proposal.

"I consider this as a truly European agreement, and I want to say that it shows that it is possible to work together on the management of migratory flows," Meloni said, alongside Rama.

EU moves towards migration deal


Italy's opposition lawmaker and Green party leader Angelo Bonelli said Monday's deal was a "blatant violation of conventions and international law."

The government was "outsourcing its responsibilities, with the risk of creating detention camps that may not ensure adequate standards of reception and respect for human dignity," news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

Some 145,000 migrants have arrived by sea in Italy so far this year on smugglers' boats that are not seaworthy, a jump from 88,000 in the same period last year.

dvv/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)