Albanian lawmakers approve deal to host thousands of migrants for Italy

Albania’s Parliament approved hosting asylum seekers from Italy amid opposition. The agreement, ratified by Italy, establishes processing centres funded by Italy, aiming to manage increasing migrant arrivals in Italy.

Albania’s Parliament passed a measure allowing the country to host thousands of asylum seekers from Italy, despite objections from opposition members and human rights organizations. The agreement permits sheltering up to 3,000 migrants rescued from international waters at once, potentially reaching 36,000 annually.


While Albania is not part of the EU, the plan to relocate asylum seekers beyond the bloc’s borders is contentious, receiving mixed reactions including endorsement from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen but drawing criticism from various human rights groups.

The November agreement, signed between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, is a component of Meloni’s initiative to allocate the responsibility of addressing migration to other European countries.

Albania’s Parliament, largely controlled by the Socialist Party led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, voted 77-0 to approve a deal allowing the country to host asylum seekers from Italy. The opposition boycotted the vote and attempted to disrupt it. Rama, absent during the vote, praised Albania’s solidarity with Italy and its demonstration of EU-like responsibility.

The conservative opposition, discontented with the Socialist government’s handling of corruption allegations, has been disrupting parliamentary proceedings since October. Despite earlier attempts by some opposition lawmakers to challenge the deal in court on human rights grounds, their leader Gazment Bardhi refrained from commenting on it before the vote. Additionally, the Justice, Integration, and Unity Party, with three votes, supported the agreement.

In January, Italy’s lower chamber of parliament ratified the agreement, which was subsequently approved by the Senate earlier this month. The deal entails the establishment of two processing centres in Albania, funded by Italy with over 600 million euros ($650 million) over five years. These centres will be operated entirely by Italy, expediting the asylum application process. Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni anticipates their operationalization by spring 2024. Italy will retain legal responsibility for the migrants throughout, either welcoming them upon receiving international protection or arranging deportation from Albania if their asylum requests are denied.

Those rescued within Italy’s territorial waters or by NGO-operated vessels will maintain their right, as per international and EU law, to seek asylum in Italy and have their applications processed there. Prime Minister Rama expressed Albania’s solidarity with Meloni, recognizing the gratitude of Albanians who sought refuge in Italy after the fall of communism in the 1990s. Italy has called for assistance from other EU countries to manage the rising influx of arrivals. According to data from Italy’s Interior Ministry, migrant arrivals surged by 50% in 2023 compared to the previous year, with over 155,750 migrants reaching Italian shores, including more than 17,000 unaccompanied minors, as opposed to 103,850 in 2022.