The Italian government’s plan to build migrant centers in Albania cannot be compared to Britain’s plan to send irregular asylum seekers to Rwanda, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Tuesday. He also added that in dealing with this issue, his country would fully protect the rights of refugees.
The plan was announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government. It is seen as an attempt to stem the growing exodus of migrants from Africa and ease pressure on centers across the country.
Italy will build two reception centers in Albania, which will accommodate a maximum of 3,000 immigrants. This marks the first time that a non-EU country has agreed to accept migrants on behalf of a member country.
In 2016, the EU reached an agreement with Turkey to prevent illegal immigrants from traveling to the bloc’s countries.
“Immigrants will be treated according to Italian and European standards,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in a session of the lower house of parliament that addressed the issue.
The deal has drawn criticism from Italy’s left-wing opposition and human rights groups. Likewise, experts on security issues and activists on migration issues in Albania have expressed skepticism and uncertainty about the practical implementation of the agreement between Italy and Albania to keep thousands of migrants in Albanian territory.
“(Italy’s) agreement is not comparable to the agreement between Britain and Rwanda,” said Mr. Tajani, referring to the British pact that was rejected by the Supreme Court of this country, which considered it illegal.
Mr. Tajani told the legislators that only immigrants who were caught in international waters and who did not have the right to stay in Italy would go to Albania. He added that no children or pregnant women will be accommodated there. Similarly, Mr. Tajani said that those who are in the repatriation process could be held for up to 18 months.
According to the Reuters agency, the agreement states that the camps will operate under Italian jurisdiction and should open in the spring of 2024.
Minister Tajani told lawmakers that Italy would bear all costs, including those related to the construction and control of these centers and would pay 16.5 million euros, or 18.00 million dollars, in initial costs.
The opposition legislators have asked Mrs. Meloni to seek approval from the parliament of the agreement negotiated with her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama. But government officials have previously said that Italian law does not have any strict provisions on the matter.
However, Mr Tajani, the successor to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the head of the Forza Italia coalition party, said the administration would present a bill to formally ratify the pact with Albania.
“We hope it will be approved based on a time frame that is consistent with the urgency of managing the growing flows of immigrants,” he said.
This year so far, about 150 thousand immigrants have arrived on Italian shores, a higher figure compared to about 94 thousand that were recorded in the same period of 2022.