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Italy-albania Deal to Curb Migrants ‘Will Be Ineffective’: Experts

As Italian officials announced that a deal signed by Rome and Tirana to combat illegal migration will be subject to approval by MPs, experts on Italian migration policy told BIRN that the plan is unlikely to succeed.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told the Italian parliament on Tuesday that a memorandum of understanding for Albania to host migrant processing centres, signed two weeks ago, will be subject to parliamentary approval.

The announcement contradicts what previously stated by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who claimed MPs’ approval wasn’t necessary.

The announcement came after pressure by opposition parties and rights organisations, which welcomed the decision.

“It’s a great achievement that at least Taiani has backtracked [on Meloni’s stance],” Anna Brambilla, a lawyer who specialises in migration and a member of the migrants rights legal group Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione, ASGI, told BIRN.

Brambilla added that “as it’s a bilateral agreement of a political nature, we have always maintained that it should be submitted for parliamentary ratification”.

She expressed hope that the parliamentary process will offer more insights into the murky deal signed between Roma and Tirana, whose full details are still not clear two weeks after it was signed.

The deal allows Italy to set up facilities on Albanian territory for immigrants rescued at sea, which could accommodate up to 3,000 people.

But Brambilla said it’s not clear how the rights to legal defence of the people held at the centres will be guaranteed, nor how vulnerable individuals will be protected.

“People seemingly will be detained in the centres regardless of the procedure to which they’re submitted, but it’s unclear what will happen after the 28 days [within which border procedures must be completed, according to Italian legislation] have passed,” she said.

The deal, which BIRN has seen, although without its annexes, states that “in the event that, for any reason, the right to stay in the facilities cease to exist”, Italy must immediately transfer the migrants concerned out of Albanian territory.

This is one of the reasons why the deal will be “highly ineffective” in the fight against illegal migration, said Oliviero Forti, who is responsible for migration policies at the charity Caritas Italy.

To implement repatriation procedures, European countries need to have bilateral agreements with the country of origin of the foreigners. In most cases, such bilateral agreements don’t exist, said Forti.

“At the end of this process [in the Albanian centres], we’ll find ourselves having to bring to Italy those who will benefit from a form of protection and even those who won’t have this protection,” he explained.

“So, at the end of the day, the question is, ‘What is the advantage of all this?’ None. In fact, among those working in this sector, there’s the strong awareness that there will be a significant additional burden on the state’s finances,” he added.

To Forti, the deal has more to do with Meloni’s government needing to show its voters a tougher stance on migration.

“I can’t find other words [to describe the agreement] except completely ineffective from a migration management perspective,” he said.

He argued that to achieve the government’s goal of combatting illegal migration, one of the main tools would be to open legal entry channels.

He explained that “it’s better to have a person with legal status on the territory rather than an irregular one”.

Source : Balkan Insight