Italy takes control of Shengjin hotspot in Albania

Italy has taken control of the new Shengjin migrant hotspot in Albania as part of an agreement between Tirana and Premier Giorgia Meloni’s government for Rome to operate three centres for asylum seekers on Albanian territory.

“The facility is ready, yesterday the works were completed and it passed under Italian management,” said Sander Marashi, director of the port of Shengjin, which is some 70 kilometres from Tirana.

Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama are set to visit the hotspot on Wednesday.

Italy is to set up two migrant hotspots and a centre to hold migrants awaiting repatriation for a total expenditure of almost 34 million euro a year.

The agreement, signed by Meloni and Rama in Rome in November, provides for the reception and processing of up to 3,000 migrants and refugees rescued by Italian ships per month.

People with special needs such as the elderly, children or pregnant women, migrants and refugees who have been rescued by NGO-run ships and people who land directly on Italian soil are to be excluded from the deal.

Since taking office in autumn 2022 the Meloni government has been reaching out to third countries in a bid to stem irregular migration by sea to Italy.

The Italian opposition has slammed the Albania deal as creating a new Guantanamo and allegedly breaching the Italian Constitution, charges the government rejects.

The Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) and the Council of Europe have also criticized the agreement.

Some other EU countries have said it is a model that could be emulated, as has European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.