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The European Union’s immigration dilemma: Italy’s controversial approach

European Union's immigration

Analyzing Italy’s unconventional response to migration challenges

Immigration within the EU triggers heated debates as nations cope with integrating migrants or setting limits. Italy, amidst a surge in arrivals, announced plans to build migrant centers in Albania, provoking both support and strong opposition within and beyond the country’s borders.

The promise of Italy to establish migrant centers in northwest Albania signalled a bold step in managing the influx of migrants. It aligned with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s vow to address immigration issues. Despite her promises, Italy has witnessed a major increase in arrivals, reaching over 145,000 in 2023 compared to around 88,000 during the same period in 2022.

The collaboration between Italy and Albania is the first of its kind between an EU member and a non-EU state. It aimed to address the overwhelming sea arrivals in Italy. However, this move triggered controversy. Albania’s Prime Minister defended their involvement, calling  the position of Italy in the Mediterranean a “curse”.

The opposition in Italy denounced it as a potential human rights violation, with critics expressing that this agreement might lead to detention centers that operate below international norms. There were also concerns about Italy’s legal authority in these centers, prompting worries about how Italian and EU laws would be applied in a non-EU country.

The European Commission showed little enthusiasm. They were concerned about adherence to EU and international laws, particularly regarding external application and potential human rights violations. Amnesty International considered that the plan was similar to refoulement, a practice banned by international and EU law.

The pact between Italy with Albania mirrored Australia’s offshore processing centers for redirected migrants. Amnesty International urged strict adherence to non-refoulement and called on the European Commission to safeguard asylum principles across Member States.

Even though Italy and Albania have since abandoned this plan, its serious consideration should alert all of Europe to the potential actions of far-right parties upon gaining power.


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