By MEDITERRANEA SAVING HUMANS
Three levels of interpretation must be considered in the face of the “surprise move” announced by Italian Prime Minister Meloni together with Albanian Prime Minister Rama November 6th in Rome. They presented a memorandum that envisages, by late Spring 2024, the opening on Albanian soil of an identification and registration center in the port of Shengjin and a detention center for the subsequent examination of applications for international protection in the old air force base of Gjader, for 3,000 places (up to a maximum turnover of 36,000 per year) dedicated exclusively to migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by Italian military units.
The first interpretative key lies in the obsessive search for ever new ways forward for the worn-out strategy of outsourcing the management of the European Union’s external borders: after the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement, the Spanish deals with Morocco and Mauritania, the 2017 Italian memorandum with Libya, the efforts towards Sahel countries and the more recent fatiguing negotiation with Tunisia, this step represents a further – negative – quantum leap. In the sense that, for the first time, zones of extraterritoriality are defined with the sovereignty of an EU member state in a third country, to which detention and possible refoulement are subcontracted.
The third level of interpretation finally speaks to us of a “small dirty market” of converging political interests: on the one hand, in the face of a number of arrivals in Italy that by the end of the year will touch 160,000 landings, in the face of a deteriorating economic and social situation with welfare cuts and trade union strikes, the need for Prime Minister Meloni to make a propaganda coup in view of the upcoming European elections in May 2024, in direct competition for who shows the fiercest face against migrants, between the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia party and its allies of Salvini’s Lega and the more centrist Forza Italia. On the other side of the Otranto channel, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s long-cherished goal of obtaining Albania’s full entry into the European Union, even at the cost of contributing to a compression of fundamental human rights and the dismantling of the yet claudicant asylum and international protection system.
It is already evident that this new memorandum presents enormous problems both from the point of view of International law compliance and its practical implementation, including transfers, procedures and deportations. But it is equally true that “they” will try, and this will be the ground for a new social, political and legal battle, to be fought to the bitter end.
Boat on the beach in Vlorë, Albania, April 2021, Sophie-Anne Bisiaux