The recent Italy-Albanian deal on migration raises not just human rights and legal questions but is also indicative of European countries’ drive to find quick-fix solutions to migration issues rather than focussing on their domestic systems, according to Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic.
Last week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Albanian counterpart Edi Rama signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would see the application of asylum seekers and refugees rescued from the Mediterranean by Italian vessels, at two centres in northern Albania.
The structures would be built, funded and operated by Italy, under Italian jurisdiction and would be completely closed, guarded by Italian authorities, and also by Albanian police outside. They would be capable of holding up to 3,000 people at any one time, with a maximum of 36,000 over the course of a year. When a decision has been taken on the individuals’ application, Italy retains full responsibility for removing them from the country, either to Italy or another location.
“The MoU is indicative of a wider drive by Council of Europe member states to pursue various models of externalising asylum as a potential ‘quick fix’ to the complex challenges posed by the arrival of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.” the statement reads.
It continues that ensuring asylum can be claimed and assessed on member states’ own territories remains a cornerstone of a well-functioning, human rights-compliant system that provides protection to those who need it.
Therefore, it is important that member states continue to focus their energy on “improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their domestic asylum and reception systems.” This should be done instead of allowing the ongoing discussion about externalisation to divert much-needed resources and attention from the issue at hand.
“Similarly, it is crucial that member states ensure that international co-operation efforts prioritise the creation of safe and legal pathways that allow individuals to seek protection in Europe without resorting to dangerous and irregular migration routes,” the statement reads.
Mijatovic added that the agreement raises a number of questions on the impact that its implementation would have on the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees. These include timely disembarkation, the impact on search and rescue operations, fairness of asylum procedures, identification of vulnerable persons, detention conditions, detention without judicial review, access to legal aid, and effective remedies.
In her view, the agreement “creates an ad hoc extra-territorial asylum regime characterised by many legal ambiguities.”
This, she added, will likely undermine crucial human rights safeguards and accountability for violations, resulting in different treatment for those processed in Albania and in Italy.
The Albanian government has maintained that this is a move of solidarity and demonstrates its EU perspective and values. They have added that no migrants will be left in Albania and everything will be implemented as per national and international rules and standards.
(Alice Taylor | Euractiv.com)
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