Danish immigration minister praises Italian asylum deal with Albania

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Danish immigration minister praises Italian asylum deal with Albania
Danish immigration minister Kaare Dybvad-Bek backs Italy's agreement with Albania to establish offshore asylum processing centres. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark’s Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad Bek has praised the Italian government for announcing an agreement with Albania which could see two offshore Italian asylum processing centres set up in the south Balkan country.


Tens of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean will be sent to purpose-built centres in Albania while Italy examines their asylum requests, the Italian government announced earlier this week.

The deal with Albania, which is not part of the European Union, follows a meeting in Rome between Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italy's far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who won elections last year after vowing to stop illegal migration to Italy.

Two structures able to accommodate up to 3,000 people at a time will be set up for "speedy processing of asylum applications or possible repatriation" of "migrants saved at sea", Meloni's office said in a statement.

Denmark, and specifically Bek’s Social Democratic party, has long desired an asylum centre outside of the EU where it would place refugees while assessing their cases. The government was previously in talks with authorities in Rwanda before deciding to shelve the project and work towards a joint EU solution.

“We don’t yet know all the details in the Italian agreement with Albania but it is incredibly positive that several EU countries are moving in the direction of the Danish idea that new solutions are needed to Europe’s migration problems,” Bek said in a written comment to news wire Ritzau.


“Denmark has previously stood very alone on this area but we can really feel that several countries can see that the current system is inhumane and broken,” he said.

READ ALSO: Italy's migrant deal with Albania 'must respect international law': UN

While Bek was enthusiastic about the Italian announcement, an opposition politician in Italy called it "a blatant violation of international law".

Italian Green party leader Angelo Bonelli said the deal was a "blatant violation of conventions and international law".

The government was "outsourcing its responsibilities, with the risk of creating detention camps that may not ensure adequate standards of reception and respect for human dignity", he said in a note.

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday international law must be respected by the deal.

"Transfer arrangements of asylum-seekers and refugees must respect international refugee law," UNHCR said in a statement Tuesday.

It added that it "was not informed about or consulted on the contents of the agreement or its details".


"UNHCR's longstanding position is that returns or transfers to safe third countries may only be considered appropriate if certain standards are met," the refugee agency said.

It voiced particular concern that "those countries fully respect the rights arising from the Refugee Convention and human rights obligations, and if the agreement helps share the responsibility for refugees equitably among nations, rather than shifting it."

International refugee law stipulates that the primary responsibility for protecting asylum-seekers and processing claims lies with the state where an asylum-seeker arrives, UNHCR said.

The centres, which Meloni said were expected to be up and running by spring 2024, will be built at Italy's expense at the port of Shengjin and the Gjader area in northwest Albania.

They will be designed to accommodate some 39,000 people a year, according to Meloni's office.

Minors, pregnant women and "vulnerable people" will not be sent to the centres, Meloni told reporters on Monday.



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