Rome: Italy’s lawmakers must reject an agreement to detain people rescued at sea by Italian ships in Albania, Amnesty International said as the Italian Parliament begins its debate on ratifying the deal today.
The scheme to build migrant detention centres in Albania is part of a broader international trend to move border control and asylum processing to third countries: a move that threatens the human rights of migrants and refugees and could lead to greater suffering.
“By externalizing asylum processing and detention outside national borders, this agreement represents yet another shameful attempt by Italy to circumvent international and EU law, with possible severe consequences for people seeking asylum,” said Matteo de Bellis, Migration and Asylum Researcher at Amnesty International.?
“This unworkable, harmful and unlawful proposal would see people in distress subjected to long and unnecessary transfers by sea and ending up in automatic and potentially prolonged detention, in violation of international law.”?
Rather than ratifying this harmful agreement, Italian MPs should instead support measures to ensure adequate reception in Italy, access to an effective asylum procedure, and safe, regular access routes.
In a new, extensive analysis, Amnesty International sets out its concerns about the likely negative human rights impacts of the Italy-Albania agreement.
With hundreds of miles between the central Mediterranean, where most crossings and shipwrecks occur, and Albania, the agreement patently breaches Italy’s obligation to disembark people rescued at sea as promptly as possible following their rescue. It may also weaken the wider search and rescue system, which would likely jeopardize the safety of people in need of rescue at sea.
The protocol envisages for Italy to maintain jurisdiction in the centres in Albania, unlike externalization attempts by other European countries, such as the UK-Rwanda Bill. While the application of Italian jurisdiction appears to promise access to procedural guarantees and asylum rights in accordance with Italian and EU law, in reality access to such guarantees could be severely hampered.
All individuals brought to the centres in Albania, including asylum seekers, would be automatically detained. Automatic detention is inherently arbitrary and therefore illegal. Combined with recent changes to Italian law, the agreement could lead to people being detained continuously for more than 18 months. Furthermore, accessing legal aid and legal representation to challenge in Italy the legality of one’s detention from Albania would inevitably be very difficult, adding to the risk of arbitrary detention.
The agreement also risks undermining the system for the identification and protection of children, pregnant women, survivors of trafficking and torture and other groups of individuals in need of specific care.?The agreement does not make clear how assessments to determine an individual’s vulnerability will be conducted or how minors and other vulnerable groups, who cannot be detained, will be protected.?
“Children, pregnant women and survivors of trafficking and torture have to endure long and unnecessary transfers by sea and, due to shortcomings in screening procedures, they may be exposed to further harm. People disembarked in Albania will be arbitrarily detained and will also face serious challenges in accessing asylum and effective remedies for human rights violations,” said Matteo de Bellis.?
“Rather than ratifying this harmful agreement, Italian MPs should instead support measures to ensure adequate reception in Italy, access to an effective asylum procedure, and safe, regular access routes, particularly for people seeking international protection.”
On 6 November 2023, the Italian government signed an agreement with Albania for the construction of two centres on Albanian territory to detain people rescued or intercepted at sea by Italian state ships. The agreement aims for the extraterritorial treatment of asylum requests and for the extraterritorial detention of people to be forcibly repatriated, with the declared goal of deterring sea crossings.?
In Albania, the ratification of the protocol has been temporarily suspended while the Constitutional Court reviews the legality of the procedure followed for its conclusion.?