Sky News has seen new documents detailing Italy’s controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Albania, showing that the plan is much less radical than the UK’s own proposal to fly people to Rwanda.
The Italian deal, announced by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni along with Albanian leader Edi Rama, said that up to 3,000 asylum seekers could be sent to Albania each month, having been first rescued by Italian ships, such as the coastguard or police.
The announcement failed to answer key questions – such as what would happen to people once their asylum claims had been decided. But the internal documents we have seen now answer those questions.
They make clear that, unlike the UK’s Rwanda plan, the joint agreement only covers the period during which their applications are being processed and a short period afterwards.
If a migrant is granted asylum, then the person would then be taken to Italy to start a new life.
The UK plan, by contrast, stipulates that a successful asylum seeker would be made to stay in Rwanda.
The Italian deal also says that if it proves impossible to send someone back to their country of origin then they would still be returned to Italy after a certain period of time, believed to be 40 days.
The deal was agreed directly between Ms Meloni and Mr Rama.
We understand that Ms Meloni’s two deputy prime ministers, Antonio Tajani and Matteo Salvini, were unaware of the agreement until shortly before its announcement.
Italy will pay for the building of the processing centres, and will also set aside a fund of €100m (£87m) to cover any costs that Albania may incur.
It has agreed that the total population of migrants housed at these centres will not go above 3,000.
The agreement document also makes clear that it aims to promote “bilateral co-operation in all sectors” in the light of “the accession of the Republic of Albania to the European Union”.
Albania is a candidate country to join the EU, having first applied in 2009.
The EU has asked for more details of the plan to send migrants to Albania, after questions as to whether it abided by European law.
Mr Tajani has insisted it does, while Elly Schlein, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, called it “an open breach of international and European law”.
Ms Meloni is reportedly planning to travel to the Albanian capital, Tirana, in the spring and wants the first camp open in May 2024 – shortly before European elections.