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EU Asks For More Information On Meloni’s Move To Send Asylum Seekers To Albania After ‘practically Zero Notice’ Of Deal – Europe Live

EU asks Italy for more information on Albania deal

Lisa O’Carroll

The EU got “practically zero notice” of Giorgia Meloni’s deal to send thousands of migrants to Albania for asylum processing, it is understood.

An official spokespersion said it had had “been informed” but declined to say when they had been told of the controversial plan the Italian prime minister unveiled yesterday.

The spokesperson said: “We have asked for detailed information.”

“We need to see the details of this arrangement so we can speak about this assessements [and] implications.”

Parallels are already being drawn between the UK’s deal with Rwanda, something that the commissioner responsible for migration, Ylva Johansson, was critical of in 2018.

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Lisa O’Carroll

Italian MEP Brando Benifei, a member of the Democratic party (PD), has sharply criticised Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s deal with Albania to process migrants.

The MEP wrote on social media that the agreement between Albania and Italy is wrong and does not solve any problems, noting that his party’s delegation has submitted a question to the European Commission.

Rome’s agreement with Tirana a ‘further blow’ for EU solidarity, says International Rescue CommitteeThe International Rescue Committee said today that Italy’s migration agreement with Albania is dehumanising and “strikes a further blow to the principle of EU solidarity”.

Imogen Sudbery, IRC’s senior director for Europe Advocacy, said that “everyone has the fundamental right to apply for asylum – regardless of where they are from, or how they arrive.”

She added:

This latest decision by Italy is part of a concerning trend that undermines this right – focusing on preventing people from reaching Europe, rather than welcoming them with dignity and respect.

This is not the first time a member state has looked into this possibility but there are fundamental reasons why these past proposals have not gone ahead: the process of offshoring is beset with numerous flaws on moral, legal and practical grounds.

Sudbery also said that “if individual countries go their own way, there is little chance of EU states forging a coherent approach that works for all – people seeking safety, and host communities alike.”

She also stressed that “it is vital that EU states uphold and strengthen the right to claim asylum on their territory,” adding:

Any migration partnerships struck with non-EU countries must be conditional on upholding the fundamental rights of people on the move.

NGOs criticise Italy’s deal with Albania

Lorenzo Tondo

NGOs operating migrants’ rescue boats in the Central Mediterranean are reacting to the plan announced by Italy to establish centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers.

Giorgia Linardi, a spokesperson for the rescue NGO Sea-Watch, said the “agreement with Albania represents a new frontal attack by the Italian government to international and EU asylum law, exploiting the desire of international recognition and the fragility of third countries to evade its responsibilities on asylum.’’

She added:

President Meloni is emulating the externalisation model promoted by the UK in Rwanda, which was condemned by the European court of human rights and blocked by the British courts, just as in Italy the judiciary has crushed the recent liberticidal amendments of the Cutro law.

According to SeaWatch, the plan is inapplicable from an EU legal perspective.

Sea rescue NGOs are excluded from the possibility of disembarking people in Albania, probably because the government is aware that we would strenuously oppose and the applicable legal framework would prove us right.

However, the government also likely considers that NGOs only account for 8% of the rescues in the Central Mediterranean Sea this year (source: Ministry of Interior/ISPI), hence exposing the large majority of the people in distress at sea to the risk of immediate deportation.

And while the fight against human trafficking is among the deal’s three stated objectives, SeaWatch says it could actually reinvigorate local criminal networks, fuelling an abusive and lucrative business on the people trapped in those centres and likely to be deported or repatriated.

As happened in Libya and Tunisia, this handshake opens up the possibility for Albania as well to use the phenomenon of migration as an instrument of pressure, at the cost of the rights of people on the move.’’

Lisa O’Carroll

Any agreement that Italy enters into with Albanian in relation to processing asylum claims must respect EU and international law, the European Commission has said.

The controversial deal caught the commission by surprise and raises the prospect of Italy moving migrants from international waters to Albania to avert further arrivals on its territory.

“We have asked for details from the Italian authorities on the deal … and once we have had time to look into in more detail we will be happy to make our views known,” said a commission spokesperson.

The commission added:

We understand that this operational arrangement would still need to be translated into law by Italy and further implemented. It is important that any such arrangement is in full respect of EU and international law.

While details are yet to be published on the deal, it is already apparent that Italy will be restricted in what it can do.

Under EU law, migrants that land on EU soil or in national waters have asylum claims processed in the EU.

Migrants rescued in international laws will have rights protected under the “principle of non-refoulement”, that prohibits any state from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction or effective control where there are substantive grounds for believing that person would be at risk.

Giulia Spagna, Italy country director at the Danish Refugee Council, said that while details have yet to be seen, the latest deal between Italy and Albania appears to fit a trend of efforts to externalise Europe’s borders to a third country.

“We still have to see the pact, as so far the two countries have just expressed the intention to collaborate but no written text has been shared,” she said.

However, Spagna noted, “the ideas behind the pact seems to indicate Meloni’s alignment with the EU nationalist countries’ ‘no’ to the update of the Dublin treaty and the need for joint measures to manage migration and asylum in the EU”.

She added:

It’s the usual script: an attempt to externalise the European/Italian border to a third country in exchange of economic and political help. We have seen this over and over, with Italy’s previous attempts to find a ‘safe third country’ in Niger, Libya and Tunisia, or the EU-Turkey agreement in 2016 and lately the UK and Rwanda.

The problems with this approach have been highlighted multiple times: they pose risks to the implementation of asylum and human rights regulations, they fail to ensure dignified conditions and treatment of the people hosted in the centres, they don’t specify what happens with those who are to be returned, in the absence of bilateral agreement with countries of origin.

Spagna also underscored that “the legal practicability of such arrangements is always very weak”.

Italy has already been condemned for the refoulement of asylum seekers and recently in the UK’s supreme court has prevented the implementation of the agreement with Rwanda. Similarly, in this case, an appeal and a ruling by an Italian court will be enough to block everything.

The outcome, she said, “is that once again time and taxpayers money will be wasted on half-baked solutions that are maybe good for short-lived propaganda but doomed to fail, instead of focusing on a pragmatic European plan for the redistribution of arrivals based on shared asylum and migration principles and shared management costs”.

Kate Connolly

New measures to deal with a large number of migrants arriving in Germany have been agreed upon by chancellor Olaf Scholz and the leaders of the 16 states, after a marathon session of talks in Berlin which went on into the early hours of Tuesday .

Scholz said that the agreements will contribute to speeding up asylum procedures and restricting social benefits paid to asylum seekers and will be backed up by more funding from the federal government towards local communities who are often struggling to cope with the demands put on them as newcomers arrive.

A bleary-eyed Scholz said the decisions made amounted to a “historical moment” for the country, even as there was plenty of criticism surrounding the agreements.

Participants were keen to stress to the decision-makers in Berlin just what an explosive political challenge the issue has become, with evidence that it is now the number one topic for many German voters

The extent to which the government is also feeling the pressure, from both within the government and the opposition, to deal with the numbers coming, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey, was expressed by Scholz who said “too many are coming”.

Between January and September this year asylum applications had risen compared to the same period last year by around 73%, to over 250,000, according to official statistics.

This is separate to the more than one million Ukrainians who have arrived since the start of Russia’s invasion in 2022, who are not required to apply for asylum.

Prior to Monday night’s summit at the chancellery in Berlin, there have been a range of legislation changes, to enable quicker deportations of asylum seekers, to punish human smugglers as well as to allow asylum seekers easier access to the workplace – seen as an urgent issue amid a chronic skills shortage. In addition temporary checks on arrivals from the borders Germany shares with Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria have been introduced.

The measures agreed on at the summit included a change in the financing of asylum seekers with an annual sum of €7,500 from next year to be made available to states for each person. In addition asylum seekers will receive less cash in future, and will instead receive part of the money available to them as credit on a payment card.

Scholz said his government was still considering whether asylum procedures outside of the EU would be possible, but was not yet ready to decide on what has long been a highly contentious issue.

EU asks Italy for more information on Albania deal

Lisa O’Carroll

The EU got “practically zero notice” of Giorgia Meloni’s deal to send thousands of migrants to Albania for asylum processing, it is understood.

An official spokespersion said it had had “been informed” but declined to say when they had been told of the controversial plan the Italian prime minister unveiled yesterday.

The spokesperson said: “We have asked for detailed information.”

“We need to see the details of this arrangement so we can speak about this assessements [and] implications.”

Parallels are already being drawn between the UK’s deal with Rwanda, something that the commissioner responsible for migration, Ylva Johansson, was critical of in 2018.

Opinion: With the far right on the rise, it’s a bad time to live in Germany – but a worse time to leave

Fatma Aydemir writes that Germany is a “depressing mess right now”.

Packing up and leaving may be a comprehensible impulse, especially for Jewish people, for people of colour, and for those who oppose antisemitism and racism alike. Yes, it is a bad time to live here, but it’s a worse time to leave. If only because they want us out, we should stay and be a pain in their ass.

Read the full story here.

Sweden calls for boosting efforts on security and migrationSwedish ministers sent a letter today to EU institutions calling for strengthening security cooperation and implementing an effective migration returns policy.

Gunnar Strömmer, Sweden’s minister for justice, together with minister for migration Maria Malmer Stenergard, said “it is of utmost importance for the over-arching future security of the EU zone that the EU reaches an agreement on the EU pact on migration and asylum.”.

“Responding to the external dimension of migration challenges requires a wide range of actions and long-term efforts,” they said.

The ministers also underscored that “an issue of utmost importance in regard to migration is an effective return policy”.

This entails both making more effective work within our own countries and in relation to our cooperation with third countries. More can be done realistically within the legal framework we have today. More discussions on cooperation on returns are necessary.

French draft immigration law fuels controversy

Angelique Chrisafis

The French senate is continuing to debate a controversial new immigration law which the government says will improve security for legal immigration, but which the left says marks a lurch to the right by Emmanuel Macron and will result in more people being expelled and conditions toughened.

Meanwhile, politicians on the French right do not agree with provisions in the bill to regularise the situation of undocumented workers in sectors with labour shortages.

The second day of debate in the Senate on Tuesday will look at one of the most politically divisive issues in the bill: the question of state medical aid for undocumented people.

The rightwing party, Les Républicains, which dominates the Senate, and whose support is needed by the government to pass the bill, wants restrictions to be introduced to limit medical aid for non-nationals without legal paperwork in France.

The prime minister Élisabeth Borne has defended the state medical aid and opposes removing it, calling it “a question of public health” and “humanity”. But the interior minister Gérald Darmanin, who is pushing a hard line, has spoken of potentially “eliminating” the aid and replacing it with a cover for emergencies only, saying that was a good compromise with Les Républicains.

However, Franck Riester, the minister for parliamentary relations, told France Info radio on Tuesday that the government was “attached to the principle” of medical aid, saying the Senate debate was just about “looking at how to improve the system”.

Last week, thousands of doctors and medics signed an open-letter in Le Monde, in protest against any scrapping of state medical aid for undocumented people, saying it risked worsening not only the health of vulnerable people in France but the health of the entire French population with more exposure to infectious diseases.

On Monday, the Senate voted for two amendments to the immigration law – annual quotas on the number of foreigners allowed into the country, and a toughening of rules on family members joining foreigners in France.

But it is next month, when the bill goes before the lower house of parliament, when key amendments will be thrashed out as the government faces the challenge of finding enough support from other parties to pass the bill.

The heated political debate has seen the right claim that France’s asylum system attracts people looking for better economic conditions. More than 137,000 people sought asylum last year in France, up 31.3% year-on-year. Expulsions have also been increased, to almost 15,400 last year – 15% higher than in 2021.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement this week criticising measures in the immigration bill, saying: “Dividing families and weakening the rights of asylum-seekers is not the response to security problems in the country.”

Lisa O’Carroll

The agreement between Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, will be hugely controversial.

On the face of it, it may seem like the first fruits of the framework the leaders agreed in Spain last month after a mini-summit on Italy’s summer migration crisis also involving the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the UK and Dutch prime ministers Rishi Sunak and Mark Rutte.

But there was no mention in their eight-point plan (below) of any outsourcing of asylum processing to a non-EU country.

Nor is there any mention of outsourcing asylum to a non-EU country in the deal reached in June on asylum procedure regulation and on the asylum and migration management regulation

That was designed to speed up asylum applications and ensure, “to quickly assess at the EU’s external borders whether applications are unfounded or inadmissible” with returns decisions for those not eligible for asylum and solidarity processing centres around the rest of the EU.

Here is the eight-point plan after the meeting between Meloni, Rama, Von der Leyen, Rutte, Macron and Sunak at the European Political Community in Granada in October.

1. Take robust action, together and in cooperation with partner countries, to tackle migrant smuggling along the routes and at external borders, including through joint action to close down the supply chains of organised gangs through information exchange, operational cooperation, measures to stop all vessels involved in smuggling and awareness raising campaigns.

2. Update the legal framework to strengthen our fight against people smugglers, ensuring harmonisation of criminal offences and working together at the UN level with the UNODC.

3. Develop comprehensive partnerships with key countries to address root causes of migration and support sustainable development through education, job creation and climate adaptation actions.

4. Support partner countries to strengthen border protection to prevent unauthorised border crossings, as well as search and rescue capacities, through the deployment of personnel, equipment, and other material.

5. Support partner countries, including through UNHCR and IOM, providing adequate levels of funding to ensure an appropriate response to mixed movements by ensuring protection and enhancing assisted voluntary return and reintegration.

6. Strengthen cooperation on return and readmission supporting one another through a network of liaison officers in partner countries, sharing of expertise, diplomatic outreach and return operations.

7. Provide opportunities of humanitarian admission and resettlement to those entitled to protection, and other legal pathways in line with our respective legal orders.

8. Strengthen cooperation on visa policy and recognise the importance of effective visa regimes in controlling irregular migration, and ensuring cooperation on readmissions.

Meloni: deal with Albania could become ‘model’ for EUIn an interview with Il Messaggero, the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, said Italy’s new agreement to establish centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers “could become a model of cooperation between EU and non-EU countries in managing migration flows”.

Giorgia Meloni (right) and Edi Rama (left) speak during a joint press conference at the Chigi Palace in Rome on Monday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images

Lorenzo Tondo

Italy’s far-right government announced plans on Monday to establish centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers, hailing it as a “historic” deal with Tirana to manage migration flows.

The agreement involves creating centres in Albania capable of housing up to 3,000 people rescued at sea by Italian vessels. However, this move has sparked a row in Europe and has been heavily criticised by Italy’s opposition parties, who have described it as a “mess” and an “Italian Guantánamo”.

At the moment, it is only a generic agreement, and the specific details of how migrants will be allocated have not yet been regulated.

One centre will be located at the north-western Albanian port of Shëngjin, where disembarkation and identification procedures will take place. Italy will establish a first reception and screening centre there.

In Gjader, also in north-western Albania, a second centre, known as a pre-removal centre, CPR, will be set up for subsequent procedures.

Government sources reported in the media that Albania will only host people rescued at sea, excluding asylum seekers who arrive on Italian shores and territory, except for minors, pregnant women, and vulnerable individuals who will be transferred to Italy.

The migrants to be transferred to Albania will exclusively be those rescued by Italian vessels, such as the Italian coastguard or military boats, and not asylum seekers saved by foreign NGO rescue boats.

Considering Albania’s geographical location, it is highly likely that the migrants transferred to the country will be those departing from the Libyan or Turkish coasts.

The Italian government’s strategy is to alleviate the burden on the island of Lampedusa, where the small centre reaches its capacity limit every summer.

Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, stated that the centres will be under Italian jurisdiction.

Italy’s move is entirely unique in the history of the migration crisis and is still unclear from a legal perspective because, in order to be practically implemented, Albania would virtually have to cede part of its territory to Italy.

The agreement will soon be scrutinised by the European Union, which will assess its admissibility.

Italy’s deal with Albania ‘will raise questions’, says academicWe asked Fabrizio Tassinari, the executive director of the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute, about the political implications of Italy’s deal with Albania.

“On the face of it, the deal is in line with Meloni’s pledge to externalise migration,” he said, adding that “she has tried with Tunisia, bringing in the commission, and that hasn’t worked so far.”

“Now she is doing it bilaterally and it will raise questions and eyebrows in Brussels,” Tassinari noted.

One could draw comparisons with what the UK or Denmark have been doing with Rwanda. The difference here is that Italy itself will manage the migration centres in Albania.

The academic also noted that “there is a broader concern about EU enlargement”.

The government in Rome is “adamant to reclaim a strategic role in the western Balkans. Relations with Albania always special in this regard. The idea with this deal must be that it will boost rather than hamper their chances. Not entirely sure about this, but it must be part of the calculation in Tirana too.

German migration deal not enough, says Bavarian leaderBavaria’s leader, Markus Söder, said this morning that the negotiations between the federal government and German states were tough and lengthy.

Writing on social media platform X, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) said it was positive that something was moving – but that it was not enough.

Ein hartes Stück Arbeit: Die Bund-Länder-Verhandlungen waren zäh und langwierig. Von gestern Früh bis 2 Uhr nachts fanden die Gespräche statt – insgesamt über 15 Stunden. Positiv: Es bewegt sich was! Negativ: Das reicht noch nicht. Wir müssen weiter Druck machen, um die…

— Markus Söder (@Markus_Soeder) November 7, 2023Scholz agrees tougher migration policy with state leaders in ‘historic moment’After long negotiations that ended in the early hours of this morning, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, agreed with the heads of Germany’s 16 states on a tougher migration policy and new funding for refugees, Reuters reports.

The government agreed to pay the states and municipalities €7,500 for each refugee from next year, and to make an advance payment of €1.75bn in the first half of 2024. Germany will also reduce benefits for asylum seekers.

Scholz called the agreement a “historic moment”.

Italy to create asylum seeker centres in Albania, Giorgia Meloni says

Lorenzo Tondo

Italy’s far-right government has announced plans to create centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers, the prime minister said on Monday, hailing it as a “historic” deal with Tirana to manage migration flows.

“I am pleased to announce with Albanian prime minister Edi Rama a memorandum of understanding between Italy and Albania concerning the management of migration flows,” said Giorgia Meloni. “Italy is Albania’s top trading partner. There is already close collaboration in the fight against illegality.”

The agreement involves setting up centres in Albania that can accommodate up to 3,000 people. Those allocated to Albania will be people rescued at sea by Italian boats.

“We started discussing this with the idea that mass illegal immigration is a phenomenon no EU member state can handle alone, and collaboration between EU states is crucial,” added Meloni.

The partnership was solidified during the mid-August Ferragosto holiday, according to sources in the prime minister’s office, despite previous reports of Meloni being on holiday in Albania.

“This is the first agreement of its kind,” the sources said. “It is a historic agreement, not only for Italy, but for the entire European Union.”

Italy’s opposition parties have criticised the agreement, describing it as a “mess”.

Read the full story here.

Welcome to the blogGood morning and welcome back to the Europe blog.

Today we will be looking at the latest on migration, as a number of governments across the continent unveil policy changes amid political pressure.

Send comments to [email protected].

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