Germany agrees tougher migration policy as Italy announces asylum centres in Albania – Europe live | Europe

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Scholz agrees tougher migration policy with state leaders in ‘historic moment’

After long negotiations that ended in the early hours of this morning, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, agreed with the heads of Germany’s 16 states on a tougher migration policy and new funding for refugees, Reuters reports.

The government agreed to pay the states and municipalities €7,500 for each refugee from next year, and to make an advance payment of €1.75bn in the first half of 2024. Germany will also reduce benefits for asylum seekers.

Scholz called the agreement a “historic moment”.

Key events

Sweden calls for boosting efforts on security and migration

Swedish ministers sent a letter today to EU institutions calling for strengthening security cooperation and implementing an effective migration returns policy.

Gunnar Strömmer, Sweden’s minister for justice, together with minister for migration Maria Malmer Stenergard, said “it is of utmost importance for the over-arching future security of the EU zone that the EU reaches an agreement on the EU pact on migration and asylum.”

“Responding to the external dimension of migration challenges requires a wide range of actions and long-term efforts,” they said.

The ministers also underscored that “an issue of utmost importance in regard to migration is an effective return policy.”

This entails both making more effective work within our own countries and in relation to our cooperation with third countries. More can be done realistically within the legal framework we have today. More discussions on cooperation on returns are necessary.

French draft immigration law fuels controversy

Angelique Chrisafis

Angelique Chrisafis

The French senate is continuing to debate a controversial new immigration law which the government says will improve security for legal immigration, but which the left says marks a lurch to the right by Emmanuel Macron and will result in more people being expelled and conditions toughened.

Meanwhile, politicians on the French right do not agree with provisions in the bill to regularise the situation of undocumented workers in sectors with labour shortages.

The second day of debate in the Senate on Tuesday will look at one of the most politically divisive issues in the bill: the question of state medical aid for undocumented people.

The right-wing party, Les Républicains, which dominates the Senate, and whose support is needed by the government to pass the bill, wants restrictions to be introduced to limit medical aid for non-nationals without legal paperwork in France.

The prime minister Élisabeth Borne has defended the state medical aid and opposes removing it, calling it “a question of public health” and “humanity”. But the interior minister Gérald Darmanin, who is pushing a hard-line, has spoken of potentially “eliminating” the aid and replacing it with a cover for emergencies only, saying that was a good compromise with Les Républicains.

However, Franck Riester, the minister for parliamentary relations, told France Info radio on Tuesday that the government was “attached to the principle” of medical aid, saying the Senate debate was just about “looking at how to improve the system”.

Last week, thousands of doctors and medics signed an open-letter in Le Monde, in protest against any scrapping of state medical aid for undocumented people, saying it risked worsening not only the health of vulnerable people in France but the health of the entire French population with more exposure to infectious diseases.

On Monday, the Senate voted for two amendments to the immigration law – annual quotas on the number of foreigners allowed into the country, and a toughening of rules on family members joining foreigners in France.

But it is next month, when the bill goes before the lower house of parliament, when key amendments will be thrashed out as the government faces the challenge of finding enough support from other parties to pass the bill.

The heated political debate has seen the right claim that France’s asylum system attracts people looking for better economic conditions. More than 137,000 people sought asylum last year in France, up 31.3% year-on-year. Expulsions have also been increased, to almost 15,400 last year – 15% higher than in 2021.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement this week criticising measures in the immigration bill, saying: “Dividing families and weakening the rights of asylum-seekers is not the response to security problems in the country”.

Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll

The agreement between Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, will be hugely controversial.

On the face of it, it may seem like the first fruits of the framework the leaders agreed in Spain last month after a mini-summit on Italy’s summer migration crisis also involving the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the UK and Dutch prime ministers Rishi Sunak and Mark Rutte.

But there was no mention in their eight-point plan (below) of any outsourcing of asylum processing to a non-EU country.

Nor is there any mention of outsourcing asylum to a non-EU country in the deal reached in June on asylum procedure regulation and on the asylum and migration management regulation

That was designed to speed up asylum applications and ensure, “to quickly assess at the EU’s external borders whether applications are unfounded or inadmissible” with returns decisions for those not eligible for asylum and solidarity processing centres around the rest of the EU.

Here is the eight-point plan after the meeting between Meloni, Rama, Von der Leyen, Rutte, Macron and Sunak at the European Political Community in Granada in October.

1. Take robust action, together and in cooperation with partner countries, to tackle migrant smuggling along the routes and at external borders, including through joint action to close down the supply chains of organised gangs through information exchange, operational cooperation, measures to stop all vessels involved in smuggling and awareness raising campaigns.

2. Update the legal framework to strengthen our fight against people smugglers, ensuring harmonisation of criminal offences and working together at the UN level with the UNODC.

3. Develop comprehensive partnerships with key countries to address root causes of migration and support sustainable development through education, job creation and climate adaptation actions.

4. Support partner countries to strengthen border protection to prevent unauthorised border crossings, as well as search and rescue capacities, through the deployment of personnel, equipment, and other material.

5. Support partner countries, including through UNHCR and IOM, providing adequate levels of funding to ensure an appropriate response to mixed movements by ensuring protection and enhancing assisted voluntary return and reintegration.

6. Strengthen cooperation on return and readmission supporting one another through a network of liaison officers in partner countries, sharing of expertise, diplomatic outreach and return operations.

7. Provide opportunities of humanitarian admission and resettlement to those entitled to protection, and other legal pathways in line with our respective legal orders.

8. Strengthen cooperation on visa policy and recognise the importance of effective visa regimes in controlling irregular migration, and ensuring cooperation on readmissions.

Meloni: deal with Albania could become ‘model’ for EU

In an interview with Il Messaggero, the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, said Italy’s new agreement to establish centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers “could become a model of cooperation between EU and non-EU countries in managing migration flows”.

Giorgia Meloni (right) and Edi Rama (left) speak during a joint press conference at the Chigi Palace in Rome
Giorgia Meloni (right) and Edi Rama (left) speak during a joint press conference at the Chigi Palace in Rome on Monday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu/Getty Images

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Italy’s far-right government announced plans on Monday to establish centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers, hailing it as a “historic” deal with Tirana to manage migration flows.

The agreement involves creating centres in Albania capable of housing up to 3,000 people rescued at sea by Italian vessels. However, this move has sparked a row in Europe and has been heavily criticised by Italy’s opposition parties, who have described it as a “mess” and an “Italian Guantánamo”.

At the moment, it is only a generic agreement, and the specific details of how migrants will be allocated have not yet been regulated.

One centre will be located at the north-western Albanian port of Shëngjin, where disembarkation and identification procedures will take place. Italy will establish a first reception and screening centre there.

In Gjader, also in north-western Albania, a second centre, known as a pre-removal centre, CPR, will be set up for subsequent procedures.

Government sources reported in the media that Albania will only host people rescued at sea, excluding asylum seekers who arrive on Italian shores and territory, except for minors, pregnant women, and vulnerable individuals who will be transferred to Italy.

The migrants to be transferred to Albania will exclusively be those rescued by Italian vessels, such as the Italian coastguard or military boats, and not asylum seekers saved by foreign NGO rescue boats.

Considering Albania’s geographical location, it is highly likely that the migrants transferred to the country will be those departing from the Libyan or Turkish coasts.

The Italian government’s strategy is to alleviate the burden on the island of Lampedusa, where the small centre reaches its capacity limit every summer.

Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, stated that the centres will be under Italian jurisdiction.

Italy’s move is entirely unique in the history of the migration crisis and is still unclear from a legal perspective because, in order to be practically implemented, Albania would virtually have to cede part of its territory to Italy.

The agreement will soon be scrutinised by the European Union, which will assess its admissibility.

Italy’s deal with Albania ‘will raise questions’, says academic

We asked Fabrizio Tassinari, the executive director of the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute, about the political implications of Italy’s deal with Albania.

“On the face of it, the deal is in line with Meloni’s pledge to externalise migration,” he said, adding that “she has tried with Tunisia, bringing in the commission, and that hasn’t worked so far.”

“Now she is doing it bilaterally and it will raise questions and eyebrows in Brussels,” Tassinari noted.

One could draw comparisons with what the UK or Denmark have been doing with Rwanda. The difference here is that Italy itself will manage the migration centres in Albania.

The academic also noted that “there is a broader concern about EU enlargement”.

The government in Rome is “adamant to reclaim a strategic role in the western Balkans. Relations with Albania always special in this regard. The idea with this deal must be that it will boost rather than hamper their chances. Not entirely sure about this, but it must be part of the calculation in Tirana too.

German migration deal not enough, says Bavarian leader

Bavaria’s leader, Markus Söder, said this morning that the negotiations between the federal government and German states were tough and lengthy.

Writing on social media platform X, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) said it was positive that something was moving – but that it was not enough.

Ein hartes Stück Arbeit: Die Bund-Länder-Verhandlungen waren zäh und langwierig. Von gestern Früh bis 2 Uhr nachts fanden die Gespräche statt – insgesamt über 15 Stunden. Positiv: Es bewegt sich was! Negativ: Das reicht noch nicht. Wir müssen weiter Druck machen, um die…

— Markus Söder (@Markus_Soeder) November 7, 2023

Scholz agrees tougher migration policy with state leaders in ‘historic moment’

After long negotiations that ended in the early hours of this morning, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, agreed with the heads of Germany’s 16 states on a tougher migration policy and new funding for refugees, Reuters reports.

The government agreed to pay the states and municipalities €7,500 for each refugee from next year, and to make an advance payment of €1.75bn in the first half of 2024. Germany will also reduce benefits for asylum seekers.

Scholz called the agreement a “historic moment”.

Italy to create asylum seeker centres in Albania, Giorgia Meloni says

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Italy’s far-right government has announced plans to create centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers, the prime minister said on Monday, hailing it as a “historic” deal with Tirana to manage migration flows.

“I am pleased to announce with Albanian prime minister Edi Rama a memorandum of understanding between Italy and Albania concerning the management of migration flows,” said Giorgia Meloni. “Italy is Albania’s top trading partner. There is already close collaboration in the fight against illegality.”

The agreement involves setting up centres in Albania that can accommodate up to 3,000 people. Those allocated to Albania will be people rescued at sea by Italian boats.

“We started discussing this with the idea that mass illegal immigration is a phenomenon no EU member state can handle alone, and collaboration between EU states is crucial,” added Meloni.

The partnership was solidified during the mid-August Ferragosto holiday, according to sources in the prime minister’s office, despite previous reports of Meloni being on holiday in Albania.

“This is the first agreement of its kind,” the sources said. “It is a historic agreement, not only for Italy, but for the entire European Union.”

Italy’s opposition parties have criticised the agreement, describing it as a “mess”.

Read the full story here.

Welcome to the blog

Good morning and welcome back to the Europe blog.

Today we will be looking at the latest on migration, as a number of governments across the continent unveil policy changes amid political pressure.

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