Thursday, June 13, 2024

Meloni says EU migration policy should be based on Italy-Albania deal

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The deal Italy has struck with Albania to have the latter process the asylum claims of thousands of migrants picked up at sea sent to it by Italy should be replicated at the EU level, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Wednesday (5 June), adding that it could be part of a structural solution for the EU.

On Wednesday, just days before the European elections, Meloni travelled to Albania with Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi to inaugurate a facility on Albanian soil.

Last year, Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama signed a five-year deal to advance the externalisation strategy for migrants championed by Meloni’s government.

The agreement establishes a reception centre in Shengjin, a northwestern coastal town in Albania, for initial processing, such as identification and registration of people arriving on Italian shores, and a detention centre in Gjader.

Both facilities are expected to be operational by August 2024 and will house up to 3,000 migrants per month while Italy fast-tracks their asylum applications.

Italy would then receive the migrants if they are granted international protection or arrange their deportation from Albania if their application is rejected.

“Italy and Albania have historically been friendly nations, accustomed to collaborating. I want to once again thank Prime Minister (Edi) Rama and the Albanian people for their assistance and for entering into a broad European agreement with us,” Meloni said in a joint statement with Rama.

“This agreement could be replicated in many countries and could become part of a structural solution for the European Union,” said the Italian prime minister, who has pushed for European migration policy to include agreements with third countries.

To drive home her point, Meloni noted: “This agreement is becoming a model. A few weeks ago, about 15 out of 27 European nations, the majority of the EU, signed an appeal to the (European) Commission, requesting, among other things, that they follow the Italian model. Even Germany, through its interior minister (Nancy Faeser), has expressed interest in this agreement.”

Italian opposition parties have criticised the visit as a pre-election media stunt to boost support. They have also previously raised concerns about potential human rights abuses, comparing the centres to immigrant detention centres and calling them ‘Italy’s Guantánamo’.

“A colossal waste of money for a project that tramples fundamental rights,” Democratic Party (S&D) leader Elly Schlein said on Wednesday.

“€800 million that could have been spent on healthcare, but instead, Meloni uses it to pretend she’s providing solutions that she hasn’t delivered,” Schlein commented.

(Alessia Peretti | Euractiv.it)

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