Albanian Court Approves Deal with Italy on Processing Migrants

Rome: Albania’s Constitutional Court ruled on Monday that the protocol on migrants agreed with Italy was constitutional after it had reviewed two aspects, the physical aspect and the legal aspect regarding Albanian sovereignty.

“First, it assessed that the Protocol on Migration does not set territorial borders nor does it change the territorial integrity of the Republic of Albania, so it does not constitute an agreement that has to do with the territory in the physical aspect,” it ruled.

“Secondly, the Constitutional Court assessed that in the two areas where the Migration Protocol operates, Albanian law is applied, in addition to Italian law,” it added.

The deal concerns the hosting and processing in Albania of refugees and migrants picked up at sea by Italian ships.

The case went to the Court on the request of opposition Albanian MPs. Since it was first presented by Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, and Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, in Rome on November 6, the deal has been criticised for a lack of transparency and public consultation and, over its legal aspect, over whether it would violate Albania’s sovereignty over its territory.

A group of 29 organisations addressed the Albanian government on November 15 in an open letter where they demanded withdrawal from the agreement, saying it would violate human rights and involve wrongful imprisonment.

The protocol specified certain conditions and the costs that the construction, maintenance and operation of the two centres will entail.

According to the text, construction of the hosting and processing structures will cost the interior Ministry €31.2 million and the Ministry of Justice €8 million. Italy would allocate €9.4 million for the year 2024 for the equipment for the functioning of the centres.

A centre at the port of Shengjin will handle procedures and identification, similar to the “hotspots” Italy has been using for several years, which the European Court of Human Rights condemned on March 30.

Gjader, in northwestern Albania, will host those who, after identification and screening, are not deemed suitable for protection. The centre will operate similarly to Italy’s Repatriation Centres, where migrants are detained until repatriation – a complex procedure widely deemed ineffective.

Those awaiting repatriation under Italian law may be detained for a maximum of 18 months. The deal states that if the right to stay in the facilities ceases to exist, Italy must immediately transfer the migrants out of Albanian territory.