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How to Interpret the Albanian Court’s Decision on Italian Migration Deal

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Albania’s constitutional court is set to rule on whether a Italian migration deal, proposed by the country’s far-right government, violates the Albanian constitution. The deal, announced in November by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has faced criticism for potentially allowing the use of Albanian territory for reception centers for individuals seeking to enter the EU by sea. The agreement could see Albania initially hosting around 3,000 people, with the capacity to process up to 36,000 individuals annually.

Decoding the Albanian Court’s Ruling on Albanian-Italian Migration Pact

Meloni, known for her past controversial statements regarding migrants, argues that the plan is essential to reduce sea arrivals to Italy, which increased by 50% in the previous year. Under the deal, people rescued by Italian migration boats would be allocated to Albania, while minors, pregnant women, and vulnerable individuals would be taken to Italy. The agreement has been tacitly endorsed by the EU but has drawn criticism from human rights groups.

Constitutional Court’s Intervention

Albania’s constitutional court intervened in December by blocking the ratification of the legislation. Chief Judge Olta Zaçaj announced a public hearing on Thursday to determine whether the agreement violates Albania’s constitution. Critics contend that the deal poses legal challenges, suggesting that for Italy to exercise jurisdiction in Albania, Tirana would effectively need to cede a portion of its territory to Rome. Comparisons have been made to the UK’s deal with Rwanda, but concerns about legal complexities have been raised.

Legal and Human Rights Concerns

Legal experts and human rights advocates have raised several concerns about the deal. Some argue that ensuring the same standard of asylum rights in a foreign country, as required by international standards, is practically impossible. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has criticized the agreement for going beyond previous deals between EU countries and non-member states, stating that the aim is not only to discourage departures but also to actively prevent people from fleeing and gaining safe access to European territory.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has denied accusations of outsourcing asylum processing to a third country, emphasizing that the deal adheres to internationally guaranteed rights. However, human rights organizations, including the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, have warned that such agreements could set dangerous precedents and undermine the global system of international protection.

Concerns about a Domino Effect

Mijatović highlighted the risk of a domino effect, as the shifting of responsibility across borders by some states could incentivize others to follow suit. This could create a precedent that undermines the European and global system of international protection. The deal’s potential replication in other parts of Europe has been suggested by the Italian government, raising broader implications for migration policies and human rights across the continent.

Political and Economic Dimensions

The deal has political and economic dimensions, with Meloni offering support for Albania’s entry into the EU in exchange for Prime Minister Edi Rama’s backing on migration issues. Meloni praised Albania as a friendly nation and expressed pride in Italian migration support for the enlargement of the western Balkans. Aid workers view the agreement as a potential turning point in the migration crisis, reflecting a policy of externalizing asylum responsibilities.

Humanitarian Concerns and Migration Crisis

The deal comes against the backdrop of an ongoing migration crisis, with more than 2,500 people reported dead or missing in 2023 while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean from North Africa to reach Europe. Humanitarian organizations and activists express deep concerns about the implications of externalizing Italian migration responsibilities and the potential human rights implications for individuals seeking refuge.

In conclusion, the controversial migration deal between Italian migration and Albania faces legal scrutiny, raising questions about constitutional implications and adherence to international human rights standards. The outcome of the constitutional court’s ruling will have far-reaching consequences, impacting the approach of European countries toward migration policies and their commitment to protecting asylum seekers and refugees.

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