Albanian parliament approves contested migrant deal with Italy

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Albania’s parliament on Thursday approved a controversial deal signed with Italy to host two holding centres for migrants rescued in Italian waters.

The deal, which required a simple majority approval, passed with the backing of 77 MPs of the 140-seat parliament, with the opposition boycotting the vote.

Following the vote, the opposition slammed the agreement.

“The migrant deal harms national security, territorial integrity and the public’s interest,” right-wing opposition leader Gazmend Bardhi told reporters.

The agreement has been regularly denounced by opposition parties in both countries as well as by rights groups, resulting in a legal challenge taken up by Albania’s top court in Tirana.

Late last month, the constitutional court approved the deal, paving the way for Thursday’s vote.

The parliamentary approval came weeks after Italian MPs also voted in favour of the agreement, with the lower chamber of parliament backing the deal by 155 votes to 115, with two abstentions.

 Italian financing 

The accord allows for two centres to be built near the Albanian port of Shengjin, where migrants would register for asylum, as well as a facility in the same region to house those awaiting a response to their applications.

The centres, to be managed by Italy, can hold a maximum of 3,000 people at any one time while they await a decision on their claims.

The International Rescue Committee NGO has also condemned the agreement as “dehumanising”, while Amnesty International described it as “illegal and unenforceable”.

Albanian authorities, however, have fired back, saying that the deal is in line with previous treaties signed with Italy, and complies with both international law and the country’s constitution”.

Italy will pay to build the two centres and necessary infrastructure, as well as expenses relating to the security and medical care of asylum seekers, according to Albanian authorities.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni — leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party — was elected to office in 2022 promising to stop migrant boats arriving from North Africa.

But arrival numbers have continued to rise, from around 105,000 migrant landings in 2022 to almost 158,000 last year, official figures show.

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