Italy will build centers in Albania to host tens of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean while authorities assesses their asylum requests, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Monday.
The initiative was announced after Meloni met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Rome.
Italy will pay the expenses to construct the two centers at the port of Shengjin and the Gjader area in northwest Albania.
Meloni said the centers would host nearly 3,000 people when they open in 2024. She said the Italian government hopes to scale up its capacity to process 36,000 migrants annually.
Minors and pregnant women will not be sent to the centers,the Italian PM told the media. If the asylum bids are rejected by Italy, Albania would deport the migrants.
The centers will be under Italian jurisdiction and Albania would provide external security for the facilities, Meloni added.
Meloni promised to curb a rise in the illegal Mediterranean crossings
Meloni won elections last year after vowing to stop illegal migration to Italy.
Her far-right Brothers of Italy party had been calling for such centers to be set up outside the European Union, proposing regions like North Africa, but no country from there had accepted.
"I consider this as a truly European agreement, and I want to say that it shows that it is possible to work together on the management of migratory flows," Meloni said as Rama stood alongside her.
Italy's opposition lawmaker and Green party leader Angelo Bonelli said Monday's 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", news agency AFP quoted him as saying.
Some 145,000 migrants have arrived by sea in Italy so far this year on smugglers' boats that are not seaworthy, a jump from 88,000 in the same period last year.
dvv/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)