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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni Alamy Stock Photo

Albania votes to approve deal with Italy to hold asylum seekers

Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has taken a hardline position on refugees.


ALBANIA’S PARLIAMENT HAS voted in favour of a deal with Italy to hold thousands of asylum seekers while their asylum applications for Italy are processed.

Under a five-year deal, Albania could shelter up to 3,000 migrants at any one time. Two processing centres are expected to be set up in Albania at a cost to Italy of more than €600 million over five years.

Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has taken a hardline position on refugees, going as far as trying to limit the capacity of NGO rescue vessels to save drowning boats.

The agreement was signed in November between Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Rama and approved by both chambers of Italy’s parliament. 

Rama has said Albania stands beside Meloni in a sign of gratitude on behalf of Albanians who found refuge in Italy and “escaped hell and imagined a better life” following the collapse of communism in Albania in the 1990s.

The Albanian parliament, where Rama’s party holds 74 of 140 seats, will voted on the deal this morning.

Following the vote, the opposition slammed the agreement.

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

The agreement has been regularly denounced by opposition parties in both countries as well as by rights groups, resulting in a legal challenge taken up by Albania’s top court in Tirana.

Late last month, the constitutional court approved the deal, paving the way for Thursday’s vote.

The International Rescue Committee NGO condemned the agreement as “dehumanising”, while Amnesty International described it as “illegal and unenforceable”.

The plan has been endorsed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen but has been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The two facilities in Albania are to be fully run by Italy while it fast-tracks their asylum requests. Meloni has said she expects them to become operational by spring.

Italy is to remain legally responsible for the migrants throughout the process.

It would welcome them in should they be granted international protection or organise their deportation from Albania if refused.

Additional reporting by AFP

Press Association