November 7, 2023
The Italian government outsources the asylum procedure and the repatriation of migrants to the Balkan country Albania. The European Commission asks for an explanation, but weighs every word. Germany and Austria are also considering asylum reception outside the European Union.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signed a migration agreement with her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama in Rome on Monday. Italy wants to divert asylum seekers to the Balkan country in rickety or humanitarian boats from next spring. There they end up in two asylum centers, which are paid for and run by the Italian authorities. Migrants who wash up on Italian soil are not put on boats to Albania. Neither do pregnant women, minors and vulnerable people.
I consider this a real European deal. Our agreement shows that it is possible to work together to manage migration flows.
Italian Prime Minister
The two reception centers in Albania should be operational by spring of next year. These two asylum centers outside the European Union can receive up to 36,000 asylum seekers every year. According to Prime Minister Edi Rama, the agreement with Albania underlines the historic ties with Rome. ‘I consider this a real European deal. Our agreement shows that it is possible to work together to manage migration flows,” Meloni said.
Italy is pioneering the outsourcing of asylum applications and the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers to a European country that is not part of the European Union. Albania has been a candidate country for a long time, but Tirana should not count on a quick start to the accession negotiations.
The European Commission on Tuesday asked Meloni for detailed explanations about the asylum plans, pointing out that the deal with Albania “must respect European and international agreements.” After all, in this case, European migration legislation is not applied on EU territory, but ‘extraterritorially’, outside the Union.
The Commission is walking on eggshells. Meloni is under pressure from her right-wing coalition colleagues to firmly tackle the asylum problem in Italy. This year, more than 145,000 asylum seekers came to Italy, two-thirds more than the 88,000 in 2022. The migration agreement with Tunisia, which Meloni negotiated earlier this year together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is going wrong.
The Italian opposition baptized Meloni’s initiative ‘the European Guantánamo’. The fact that the procedure does not take place in Italy may complicate the asylum and appeal procedures. Rama also stated that migrants who are not repatriated will be sent back to Italy. And forced return is not Italy’s strong suit.
The British government has been counting on a shipment of asylum seekers to Rwanda for some time, but that agreement has not been finalized.
On Tuesday, the German government reached a migration agreement with the states on financial support, the accelerated processing of asylum procedures and deportations of rejected asylum seekers. The measures should take the wind out of the sails of the far-right AfD. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is investigating the possibility of setting up asylum centers outside the European Union. The German government also strengthened temporary border controls with other EU countries.