LONDON: Italy will offer legal aid via video call to migrants it detains at an overseas holding facility in Albania, The Times reported on Wednesday.
Italy’s government on Monday issued a parliamentary bill to put in motion plans to open a holding center in Albania by next spring.
The facility will house up to 3,000 migrants who are picked up by Italian ships operating in international waters.
They will be transported to Albania’s Shengjin port, identified and sent to the facility, with Italy proposing a 28-day asylum-processing period.
It follows the striking of a deal between the Italian and Albanian governments last month, with Rome planning to quickly repatriate migrants that disembark from “safe countries,” including Tunisia.
The Italian government bill guarantees migrants “the quick and full exercising of the right to defense,” and the right to “private discussions with a lawyer in Italy via video conference.”
Migrants will be able to take part in judicial hearings on their case using video calls if they choose to appeal against their repatriation.
The facility in Albania — which is expected to cost under $215 million per year to operate — will also contain a prison facility to incarcerate migrants who commit crimes while detained.
Albania will not be paid to host the center but accepted the deal as a “gesture of goodwill,” said its Prime Minister Edi Rama. But Rome will pay the salaries of the center’s guards and will oversee jurisdiction of the site.
Italy is battling a migration crisis, with about 153,000 migrants sailing into its territory from North Africa this year. The figure represents a surge over last year, when 95,000 people made the same journey.
However, the country’s latest plan has been labeled “unworkable” by migration experts over concerns that 28 days leaves too little time to resolve asylum disputes.
Italy also lacks sufficient bilateral deals with migrants’ countries of origin to expedite repatriations, they warned.