By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Albania Cannot “Adopt” Asylum Seekers from Italy

Over the weekend, the Albanian government announced that it would “adopt” 20 of the 150 Eritrean asylum seekers that had been blocked for a week in the Italian port of Catania by far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini. The refugees were only allowed to leave the ship after the Italian court started proceedings against him.

The Italian Ombudsman Mauro Palma, claimed that migrants were “de facto deprived of freedom without any legal basis or judicial oversight” and that Salvini and the Italian government had potentially violated the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, the Italian Constitution, the Geneva Convention, as well as the Italian Criminal Code and Code of Navigation.

The acceptance of Albania’s offer to take over 20 asylum seekers may yet be another violation, because Albania is a “third country” and not part of the common EU asylum system, the Dublin Convention.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Lorenzo Trucco, director of the Association for the Juridical Study of Immigration (ASGI), called the Albanian “solution” a “theater of the absurd”:

Here we are outside any legal context. Albania is not in the European Union, so we are talking about a relocation to a third country that does not have everything that is foreseen by the common European asylum system. It means that we are not sure that they have the requisites required for the recognition of protection. So a transfer to this country can only take place if the migrants agree, never against their will. In that case it would be a forced removal.

And then there is the issue of choice. How will anyone selected to go to Albania be selected? It is a theater of the absurd, an attack on the asylum system. Fortunately, there was the intervention of the judiciary.

Transferring Eritrean refugees from Italy to Albania against their will or after they applied for asylum in Italy (for which they had the right as soon as they disembarked the ship) is a breach of EU law. The Albanian government has given Salvini a pretext for doing so, while also showing how little it understands of how the rule of law works.