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Albania’s Parliament approves deal to hold thousands of migrants for Italy

  • Albania’s Parliament has approved a deal allowing the country to host up to 3,000 asylum seekers for Italy.
  • Parliament, controlled by Rama’s Socialist Party, approved the deal 77-0 despite opposition protests.
  • Italy’s lower house and Senate had previously approved the deal, with plans for processing centers in Albania funded by Italy.

Albania’s Parliament approved a deal for the country to hold thousands of asylum seekers for Italy in a Thursday vote, despite protests from opposition lawmakers and human rights groups.

Under the five-year deal, Albania would shelter up to 3,000 migrants rescued from international waters at any one time. With asylum requests expected to take around a month to process, the number of asylum-seekers sent to Albania could reach up to 36,000 in a year.

Albania is not an EU state, and the idea of sending asylum seekers outside the bloc is controversial. The deal was endorsed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen but has been widely criticized by human rights groups.


The agreement, signed in November between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, is part of Meloni’s efforts to share the burden of addressing migration with other European countries.

Albania lawmakers

Lawmakers of the Democratic Party look on as their colleagues of the ruling Socialist party vote in Tirana, Albania, on Feb. 22, 2024. Albania’s Parliament approved a deal for the country to hold thousands of asylum seekers for Italy in a Thursday vote, despite protests from opposition lawmakers and human rights groups. (AP Photo/Armando Babani)

The Parliament, dominated by Rama’s left-wing Socialist Party, voted 77-0 to approve the deal in a brief 15-minute vote, while opposition lawmakers sat out the vote and tried to disrupt it with whistles.

Rama was not at the vote, but said afterward that it showed Albania was standing with Italy and acting like an EU state, by “agreeing to share a burden that Europe should face united as a whole family in the face of a daring challenge that transcends traditional left and right divides.”

Albania’s conservative opposition has regularly tried to disrupt parliament since October to protest the Socialists’ refusal to create parliamentary commissions to investigate alleged cases of corruption in the cabinet.

A group of 30 opposition lawmakers earlier went to the Constitutional Court in an unsuccessful effort to block the deal on human rights grounds, but opposition leader Gazment Bardhi did not comment on it before the vote.

The small Justice, Integration, Unity Party supported the deal with its three votes.

Italy’s lower chamber of parliament approved the deal in January, followed by the Senate earlier this month.

Two processing centers will be set up in Albania at a cost to Italy of more than 600 million euros (about $650 million) over five years. The facilities would be fully run by Italy while it fast-tracks their asylum requests. Meloni has said she expects them to become operational by the spring of 2024.

Italy would remain legally responsible for the migrants throughout the process, and would welcome them if they are granted international protection or organize their deportation from Albania if refused.


Those picked up within Italy’s territorial waters, or by rescue ships operated by non-governmental organizations, would retain their right under international and EU law to apply for asylum in Italy and have their claims processed there.

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

Italy has sought help from other EU nations to handle the increasing number of arrivals. Data from Italy’s Interior ministry showed that migrant arrivals in Italy jumped 50% in 2023 from the previous year. About 155,750 migrants reached Italian shores last year, including more than 17,000 unaccompanied minors, compared to 103,850 in 2022.

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