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Italy’s Meloni to visit Albania to discuss migrants — media

By AFP - Jun 03,2024 - Last updated at Jun 03,2024

TIRANA — Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni is due this week to travel to Albania for a visit focussing on migration, just days before the European Parliament elections, Albanian media said on Monday.

Under a controversial deal between Rome and Tirana, Albania has agreed to take in asylum seekers plucked from the seas off Italy, register them at a centre on the Adriatic Sea and then house them at another centre inland while their claims are processed.

Meloni’s hard-right government had hoped to have the project up and running before the European Union-wide elections on June 6-9 to bolster her claim to be tough on illegal migration.

The Italian leader, who heads the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, was due to arrive in Tirana on Wednesday to meet her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama and discuss the holding centres for migrants.

Media in both countries said on Monday that during her visit, which coincides with Italian cultural week in Albania, Meloni was expected to visit one of the holding centres set up under the deal she signed with Rami in November 2023.

Authorities in the Albanian port city of Shenjin said at the weekend that the migrant holding centre there had been completed. 

The asylum claims processing centre in Gjader is still unfinished and no delivery date has been announced.

The centres, to be managed by Italy, can hold a maximum of 3,000 asylum seekers at any one time.

Italy will pay to build the centres and foot the bill for expenses relating to security and medical care, at a cost estimated at between 650 to 750 million euros ($700-800 million) over the first five years.

In an interview aired on Italian television on Sunday evening, Rami defended the deal saying Albania, which is seeking to join the 27-nation EU, was “showing solidarity over the demographic problem facing Europe today”.

The International Rescue Committee NGO has condemned the agreement as “dehumanising”, while Amnesty International described it as “illegal and unenforceable”.

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