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Visit Albania: Meloni believes that the refugee deal is on the right track

Visit Albania: Meloni believes that the refugee deal is on the right track

Meloni confirmed during her visit to Albania, according to the Italian news agency ANSA, that “the two center complex will be ready for operation as of August 1, 2024.” The migrant centers will initially accommodate 1,000 people, a number that may rise to more than 3,000 once the bilateral protocol comes into full effect. Meloni stressed that under the bilateral agreement, women, children and “vulnerable” people should not be brought to Albania.

According to Meloni, one of the reasons for the delay so far is the nature of the terrain in Gadir, which was unexpected and “requires reinforcements.” The Albanian city, along with the coastal city of Shengjin, is one of two sites for migrant camps planned by Italy in Albania.

In a joint appearance with her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, Meloni highlighted the close ties between Rome and Tirana – and once again described the refugee agreement as a potential model for other countries. “There are a lot of eyes on us, we want to be successful. A goal like this is worth delaying for two months,” Meloni said.

A.B./ Vlasov Soulage

Giorgia Meloni appears with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama

Visit shortly before the EU and Piedmont elections

The visit took place just before the EU elections starting in Italy on Thursday and the regional elections in Piedmont this weekend, and are therefore also important mood tests for Italy's right-wing coalition. Meloni, head of the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) party, took office in the fall of 2022 with a promise to dramatically reduce the number of asylum applications.

In November, Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Rama signed a five-year agreement under which Albania agreed to accept up to 3,000 people rescued from international waters each month while Italy processes their asylum claims. According to the Meloni government's simulation, the number of asylum seekers sent to Albania could reach 36,000 in one year.

Albania: Construction of an Italian refugee camp

In the Albanian coastal city of Shengjin, construction of a refugee camp planned by Italy has largely been completed. The picture is different in the city of Gadir, located about 20 kilometers inland.

Costs 'already out of control'

The bilateral agreement calls for the establishment of a hotspot in the port city of Shengjin, which appears to have been largely completed, where initial testing of migrants picked up by Italy on the high seas will be carried out. There is also an initial reception and repatriation center designed to accommodate 880 and 144 people in Gadir, about 20 kilometers inland.

Criticisms of the agreement come not only from the Italian opposition, but also from human rights groups. During Meloni's visit to Albania, the head of the opposition Center + Europe party, Ricardo Maggi, immediately caused a stir with a protest. Amnesty International warned that the agreement would violate human rights. She denounced the “automatic and perhaps prolonged detention.” According to observers, it is not only a matter of the number and speed of processing asylum procedures through Albania, but the costs may be much higher than initially planned.

Riccardo Maggi, a member of the Italian House of Representatives, is detained by a security guard

Reuters/Floreon Goga

There was a protest against Meloni's refugee policy in Shengjin by the Italian politician Riccardo Maggi

In addition to rising construction costs, the backdrop is also a number of “hidden” operating costs, according to public RAI, which says costs are already out of control. In addition to handling the initial screening and asylum procedures, Italy is also responsible for full maintenance, staffing and monitoring. In addition, the migrants will be transported to Albania, on a chartered ship that currently costs around 150,000 euros per day.

Meloni: “No extra money”

“We're not spending any extra money, we're making an investment,” Meloni said. According to the Italian News Agency, she also said during her visit to Albania that expenses amounted to “670 million euros for five years, 134 million annually.” It has been submitted. “The money we spend here in Albania is aimed at tackling the migration phenomenon. The majority of Italians have asked me to solve the migration problem structurally,” Meloni said in response to a question about opposition criticism of the costs.

“The biggest benefit of this project is that it can be an extraordinary deterrence tool,” Meloni added, meaning, among other things, containing costs.

'A prison is bigger than a home for asylum seekers'

According to the Italian broadcaster La7, more than 800 million euros have already been invested, which significantly exceeds the costs announced by the government. “But despite the money spent, there is still no trace of the larger reception camp that was supposed to be opened on May 20,” the TV station noted after a visit to the construction site in Gadir.

A month ago there were only “a few bulldozers” in Shengjin as well, the Dutch television station RTL reported in this context. According to the TV station, the planned hotspot there was built within a few weeks, meaning that since then the mood among residents, who were initially completely surprised by the refugee agreement, has changed radically.

“Resistance and anxiety have given way to indifference,” also due to the fact that the migrant camp in Shengjin, tightly closed by a four-metre-high fence, “resembles more of a prison than a home.” Asylum seekers.”

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