Thousands of migrants rescued in international waters by Italy can be sent to Albania, Albania’s Constitutional Court announced Wednesday.
Albania’s parliament will vote Thursday on an agreement reached in November between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
If the deal passes, the migrants will wait in a former Albanian navy port in Shengjin on the northern Adriatic seacoast while their Italian asylum applications are processed. From there, migrants will be taken inland to Gjader, where they will be accommodated and supported by a staff of Italian personnel, ensuring Italy maintains its legal responsibility for their well-being.
This deal is the first instance of a non-European Union country accepting migrants for a member of the EU. The European Commission in Brussels announced that the Italian-Albanian program complies with EU law. It is part of an EU-wide campaign to mitigate irregular immigration, which it argues has increased the popularity of far-right beliefs.
These developments come with concerns from human rights groups and some international leaders about living conditions, the potential for arbitrary detention and putting undue stress on migrants. The lengthy process of asylum procedures and appeals could be more difficult with migrants living in another country.
Organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee voiced their opposition to the deal, stating that it would push "people onto ever more dangerous routes in search of safety."
The International Organization for Migration has reported that nearly 100 people have died or disappeared in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of 2024, which is twice the recorded amount this time last year.
The deal would span five years during which Albania would shelter up to 3,000 migrants at a time.
Rama expressed gratitude to Italy, referencing Albanians who sought refuge there after the collapse of communism in the 1990 and "escaped hell and imagined a better life."
With Rama’s left-wing party holding the majority of parliament’s seats, the deal is expected to pass. It has sparked comparisons to Britain’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda in East Africa, which was declared unlawful in November by the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.