Italy-Albania migrants deal does not breach EU law, Brussels says

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A deal allowing Italy to build reception camps in Albania for thousands of migrants arriving by sea does not breach EU law which is not applicable, the bloc’s top migration official said .

The scheme, announced last week, has drawn criticism from human rights groups and evoked comparisons with the British government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, judged illegal by Britain’s Supreme Court.

“The preliminary assessment by our legal service is that this is not violating EU law, it’s outside EU law,” EU migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson said about the Italy-Albania agreement in Brussels.

Her remarks suggested that the scheme could not be challenged before the EU Court of Justice.

Italy, an EU member, is planning to open two camps in Albania, a non-EU member, next spring, one to screen migrants on arrival and a second to detain them while asylum applications are processed, and hopes they can process as many as 3,000 cases a month.

The camps are due to operate under Italian jurisdiction, with Italian staff. It is unclear how the plan would work in practice, since there is no precedent for such an arrangement.

Johansson said “EU law is not applicable outside EU territory, but Italian law is”, but she did not clarify how this squares with Italy’s obligations as a member of the EU.

The Albanian government said on Wednesday it has put forward a law to parliament that will approve the deal with Italy. It is not clear when parliament will vote.

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