Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Tuesday that the pact his country reached with the government of Albania to set up migrant centers in that country is not comparable with a controversial agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda.
“The migrants will have exactly the same treatment as foreseen under Italian and European regulations,” Tajani said according to Italian news agency ANSA. “There is no outsourcing of the processing of asylum applications to a third country.”
The foreign minister also said that only migrants rescued at sea by the Italian authorities would be taken to the centers in Albania ― not those picked up by NGO ships, or migrants who landed on Italian soil. “It will not be possible to tow the barges of the smugglers, nor will it be possible to direct boats run by nongovernmental organizations, to Albania,” Tajani said.
Earlier Tuesday, the Guardian cited Italian authorities in reporting that a two-year-old girl had died and another eight people were missing after a boat carrying about 50 passengers across the Mediterranean sank off the coast of Lampedusa, an Italian island that is only 113 kilometers from Tunisia.
Despite an election promise by Italian PM Giorgia Meloni to stop boat crossings from North Africa, more than 145,000 people have arrived to Italy by sea so far in 2023, compared to around 88,000 over the same period in 2022.
Earlier last week, the U.K.’s final court of appeal dismissed the government’s challenge to an earlier finding that its flagship immigration policy — which intended that some asylum seekers be deported to Rwanda to deter illegal entry to Britain — was unlawful.