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Italy is by far the most common European landing spot for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
A new plan jointly announced by Italy and Albania aimed at curbing the number of would-be refugees landing on Italy's shores could serve as a "model" for Europe's efforts to grapple with migration-related issues, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday.
"The plan strengthens the strategic partnership between Italy and Albania with three objectives: combat human trafficking, prevent irregular migrant flows and receive only people who truly have the right to international protection in Europe," she said.
Nearly 145,000 refugees have landed in Italy so far this year, up from 105,000 last year. The total in 2016 was over 180,000.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Italy is by far the most common European landing spot for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
'The refugees will go to Albania, and if their application is accepted then they will go to Italy, which is different to the Rwanda Policy.'
Professor Leila Simona Talani on the new Italian migrant deal.
The memorandum of understanding signed on Monday by Meloni and Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama states that Italy will construct two migrant reception centers in Albania.
The centers will process migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea but will not receive those who make it to Italy's shores on their own, nor minors, pregnant women or those in fragile health. The financial aspects of the five-year agreement were not immediately available.
Albania and Italy are separated by around 100 km of sea at their closest points. But Albania is not a member of the EU, which means that -- unlike Italy -- it can set its own policies on migration.
Last year, Meloni lobbied for the European Union (EU) member states to develop a more collaborative policy on migration.
Al momento l’accordo fra Italia e Albania per la gestione dei migranti contiene diversi aspetti problematici: sia dal punto di vista logistico, sia del rispetto del diritto internazionale e delle leggi italiane ed europee in materia di immigrazione https://t.co/wPGLG1RoKb
The text reads, "Currently, the Italy-Albania agreement for the management of immigrants contains several problematic aspects: both from the logistical point of view and from the respect of international law and Italian and European laws related to immigration."
So far, those efforts have centered on sharing the costs of migrant processing, helping to settle asylum seekers that have been processed, patrolling the seas to curb the number of arrivals, and sponsoring economic development initiatives in Africa and beyond to make it more attractive for potential refugees to stay at their homes.
The European Commission has backed Italy's efforts to find a common European solution for migrant-related problems, but it stopped short on Tuesday of endorsing the deal between Italy and Albania.
"We are in contact with the Italian authorities," Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said. "We have asked Italy for details of the migration agreement with Albania. Before commenting further, we need to understand what the exact intention of the agreement is."
In Italy, the deal elicited mixed reviews. Elly Schlein, leader of the opposition center-left Democratic Party (PD), argued that the plan "seems in open breach of international and European law."