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Albanian opposition sounds off on controversial migrant deal with Italy


The opposition in Albania on Wednesday spoke up at the Constitutional Court against the ratification of a contentious deal the government has signed with Italy to jointly process some asylum applications of migrants arriving in Italy by sea.

Last month, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni announced a five-year deal in which Albania agreed to temporarily shelter up to 3,000 migrants per month — up to 36,000 migrants a year — while Rome fast-tracks their requests for asylum in Italy.

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.

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The Albanian government’s draft law will be debated Dec. 21 and voted on in the 140-seat parliament, where Rama’s governing Socialists have 74 seats.

In a letter to the court, the opposition said it wants parliament to suspend the ratification, asserting that it runs counter to the constitution and international law.

Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama arrives at Castel Mimi to attend the 2nd European Political Community Summit in Bulboaca, Moldova on June 1, 2023. (Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Migrants’ isolation at camps in Albania denies them “any right the Albanian Constitution has for individuals,” the letter said.

Albania has offered two facilities including the port of Shengjin, a tourist spot about 46 miles south of the capital, Tirana. Those who will be deported will be sent to a 17-acre camp in Gjader near the Shengjin port at a former military airport, according to Defense Minister Niko Peleshi.

Italy will pay for the construction of the two centers, which would be under Italian jurisdiction, while Albania would provide their external security.

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Meloni has said she expects the centers to become operational next spring.

Interior Minister Taulant Balla said Albania would temporarily shelter up to 3,000 migrants while Italy processes their asylum requests. The backlog of asylum applications in Italy currently stands at 82,000.

The deal has been criticized by rights organizations and other groups, along with Italy’s left-wing opposition parties.

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Italy has sought more solidarity from fellow European Union nations to help it handle the increasing number of arrivals. By mid-October, the number of migrants arriving in Italy by boat had nearly doubled to 140,000 compared to the same period a year ago.



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