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Albania’s Constitutional Court rules that migration deal with Italy can go ahead if approved

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Thirty Albanian parliamentarians attempted to block the ratification of the agreement by referring it to the Constitutional Court.

ANNOUNCEMENT

Albania’s Constitutional Court said on Monday it was possible to proceed with a deal with Italy under which thousands of migrants rescued at sea by Italian authorities would be sent to Albania while their asylum applications are examined.

Thirty Albanian parliamentarians attempted to block the ratification of the agreement by referring it to the court. Now it will be possible to vote in Parliament on the agreement signed in November between the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The President of the Court, Holta Zacaj, defined the agreement as “in line with the Constitution”.

With Rama’s left-wing Socialist Party holding 74 of parliament’s 140 seats, the deal is expected to pass. No date has been set for the parliamentary debate and vote.

The deal, approved by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen but widely criticized by human rights groups, is part of Meloni’s efforts to share the work of tackling migration with other European countries.

According to the agreement, two centers will be established in Albania to examine the asylum applications of people rescued by the Italian authorities in international waters.

The lower house of Italy’s parliament approved the deal last week, and it awaits the Senate, where Meloni’s right-wing forces have a comfortable majority.

In the Albanian capital Tirana, a small group gathered outside the court to protest the deal.

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee, have strongly opposed the deal, with the latter saying it would push “people onto increasingly dangerous routes in search of safety”.

The International Organization for Migration said on Monday that nearly 100 people have died or gone missing in the central and eastern Mediterranean since the start of 2024. This is double the number for the same period in 2023, considered the deadliest year for migrants in sea ​​in Europe since 2016.

Under the five-year agreement with Italy, Albania could host up to 3,000 migrants at a time. Given that the processing of asylum requests is expected to take about a month, the number of asylum seekers sent to Albania could reach 36,000 in a year.

The two facilities in Albania would be run entirely by Italy as it speeds up their asylum claims. Italy would remain legally responsible for the migrants throughout the process. It would welcome them if they were granted international protection or organize their deportation from Albania if they were refused.

Those caught in Italian territorial waters would retain the right under international and EU law to seek asylum in Italy and have their claims processed there.

Rama said Albania stands beside Meloni in gratitude on behalf of Albanians who found refuge in Italy and “escaped hell and imagined a better life” after the collapse of communism in Albania in the 1990s .

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