Migrant detention facilities nearly built in Albania in controversial deal with Italy

Migrant detention facilities nearly built in Albania in controversial deal with Italy

The construction of two Italian migrant detention centres in Albania is underway – with the facilities expected to open at the beginning of August.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama signed a five-year deal in November concerning cooperation between the two countries when it came to asylum seekers in Italy.

Albania agreed to detain up to three thousand migrants rescued from international waters each month while Italy processes their asylum claims.

Asylum requests are expected to take around a month to process –with Albania potentially receiving up to 36,000 asylum seekers each year.

One centre will be built in Gjader – a former military airport located 80km away from the Albanian capital city of Tirana.

A second centre is almost finished in Shengjin, where housing units and offices are set in an area covering 4,000 square metres and surrounded by a 5-metre-high barbed metal fence.

Meloni has defended the controversial plan – saying it is necessary as part of her policy to crackdown on migration and deter prospective refugees from making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Human rights groups and opposition lawmakers have warned that refugee protections could be compromised. Amnesty International described the deal as “dangerous” and “shameful.”

Meloni said the deal with Albania was “extremely innovative," adding that 15 of the 27 EU countries were reportedly interested at the prospect.

She said these countries had asked the European Commission “if the Union (could) follow the Italian model in the agreement with Albania.”

Albania is not a European Union member and the idea of sending asylum seekers outside the bloc has been met with controversy.

Italy will remain legally responsible for asylum seekers detained at the Albanian centres throughout the process and will organise their deportations from the country if they are refused international protection.

The initiative was first announced last July, with Meloni saying that the swift processing of asylum applications could help relieve chronic overcrowding in Italian processing centres.

Prior to the deal with Albania, Italy had sought solidarity with other European Union nations to help handle the large number of people arriving to the country.

One of Meloni’s key promises as part of her political programme was curbing illegal migration into Italy – though this has proven to be a particularly difficult challenge.

Despite Meloni’s tough stance on immigrants, migrant arrivals in Italy are up from last year.