| 19 June 2024, Wednesday |

Italy says migrant pact with Albania isn’t comparable to UK-Rwanda plan

The Italian government’s plan to create migrant camps in Albania cannot be compared to Britain’s proposal to transfer irregular asylum seekers to Rwanda, Italy’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that the way requests are handled will properly protect refugees’ rights.

The idea was unveiled earlier this month by the right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni as the latest move to dissuade rising migrant departures from Africa and relieve pressure on centers across the country.

Italy will build two reception and detention camps in Albania which will host a maximum of 3,000 migrants at any one time, marking the first ever deal involving a non-EU country accepting migrants on behalf of a member nation.

In 2016 the EU struck a deal with Turkey to prevent people heading for the bloc irregularly.

“Migrants will be treated according to Italian and European standards,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told a session of the lower house of parliament dedicated to the deal, which sparked criticism among the leftist opposition and human right groups.

“This Protocol is not comparable to the agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda,” Tajani said, rejecting comparisons between the Italian initiative and Britain’s, which UK’s top judges have declared unlawful.

The protocol, seen by Reuters, says the camps will operate under Italian jurisdiction, and should open in spring 2024.

Tajani told lawmakers Italy would bear all the costs, including building and policing the centres, and would pay 16.5 million euros ($18.00 million) for the initial expenses.

Opposition lawmakers have been urging Meloni to seek parliament approval for the deal negotiated with her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, after the government said it was not strictly needed based on Italian law.

However, Tajani – the successor of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at the helm of the coalition Forza Italia party – said the administration would present a law bill to formally ratify the pact with Albania.

“We hope it can be approved in a time frame that is consistent with the urgency of tackling the management of growing migration flows,” he said.

Some 150,000 sea migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, compared to around 94,000 in the same period in 2022.

  • Reuters