TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian government on Wednesday put forth a draft law on a contentious deal with Italy to jointly process some asylum applications of migrants arriving in Italy by sea.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni earlier this month announced a five-year deal in which Albania agreed to temporarily shelter up to 36,000 migrants a year while Rome fast-tracks their requests for asylum in Italy.
Albania’s draft law will be debated and voted on in the 140-seat parliament where Rama’s governing Socialists have 74 seats. It is not clear when the parliament will vote.
Albania’s opposition is against the plan, while Albanians are divided. Rama considers the deal as a gesture of reciprocation to Italy, which in 1991 welcomed thousands of Albanians fleeing poverty after the fall of communism.
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told journalists the agreement would not go through the Italian parliament, as it is not a treaty.
“I will come into the (Parliament’s) hall to explain,” he said on his appointment set for Nov. 22, according to LaPresse.
The European Commission has requested more details. The deal has been criticized by rights organizations and other groups, and it could backfire against Albania as it aspires to join the European Union. Italy’s left-wing opposition parties oppose the deal.
Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, said earlier this week the deal raised “several human rights concerns,” because of its many “legal ambiguities.”
She mentioned “timely disembarkation, impact on search and rescue operations, fairness of asylum procedures, identification of vulnerable persons, the possibility of automatic detention without an adequate judicial review, detention conditions, access to legal aid and effective remedies,” among the main concerns.
Italy has sought more solidarity from fellow European Union nations to help it handle the increasing number of arrivals.
“It is important that member states continue to focus their energy on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their domestic asylum and reception systems,” Mijatovic said.
Creating safe and legal pathways to allow individuals to seek protection in Europe would avoid having them resort “to dangerous and irregular migration routes.”
Italy has committed to pay for the construction of two centers that can hold up to 3,000 migrants at a time. Meloni has said she expects them to become operational next spring.
Albania offers two facilities including the port of Shengjin, a tourist spot about 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of the capital, Tirana. Those who will be deported will be sent to Gjader near the Shengjin port, at a former military airport.
Albania would provide external security for the two centers, which would be under Italian jurisdiction.
Italy has agreed to remove people whose applications for international protection have been rejected, but the deal does not outline how they will be repatriated, which is often a long and difficult process.
The deal also doesn’t say whether migrants will be screened for transfer to Albania at sea or on Italian soil.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield and Frances D’Emilio contributed from Rome.
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