Italian-Albanian Plan to Hold Migrants Faces Legal Setback

The plan for Italy to send thousands of asylum seekers to Albania for processing has hit a roadblock as the Albanian supreme court temporarily suspends the agreement. The court has called for a hearing next month to determine whether the deal violates the Albanian constitution. The agreement involves the construction of two processing centers in northern Albania to handle 36,000 individuals seeking asylum in Italy each year. However, opposition parties in both countries and human rights organizations have criticized the plan.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama signed the agreement last month. According to the terms, 3,000 people per month who have attempted to reach Italy by sea would be held in the processing centers in the port of Shengjin while their asylum claims are reviewed. The Italian government will finance the centers, which will operate under Italian law. Italian personnel will oversee operations and enjoy limited immunity from Albanian law. After the assessment of their asylum claims, Italy will decide whether to resettle individuals in Italy or deport them. Albanian police will be responsible for security outside the centers.

Albanian opposition parties have filed two petitions arguing that the agreement deprives asylum seekers of constitutional and international legal protections. They claim that the deal amounts to a forfeiture of Albania’s sovereignty over the sites. The appeals also contend that Prime Minister Rama needed approval from President Bajram Begaj to proceed with the agreement. The supreme court ruled on Thursday that the appeals need further consideration, leading to the suspension of the law’s ratification. Despite holding a parliamentary majority, the ruling Socialist Party’s plan approval is now uncertain. The anticipated timeline for the centers’ operationalization, as stated by Prime Minister Meloni, has been cast into doubt following the court’s decision.

The Italian-Albanian agreement has drawn comparisons to the United Kingdom’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, which has also faced legal challenges and criticism from human rights groups. However, no asylum seeker has been deported from the UK to Rwanda, despite the British government allocating at least £240m to the African country for this purpose. This recent development in the Italian-Albanian plan adds to the complexity and controversy surrounding the issue.