The agreement for sending illegal immigrants from Italy to Lezha, signed by the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Italian Giorgia Meloni, caused debate and concern among the citizens. In the absence of exhaustive information, the media returned to the arena of clashing baseless theses, discriminatory language, and spreading panic among citizens. These theses were identified not only in Albania, the host country for immigrants, but also in its neighbors, such as Montenegro.
by Jona Plumbi
What’s going on with the deal?
A day before the majority voted in the parliament the agreement that the head of government Edi Rama signed with his counterpart Giorga Meloni, for the treatment of illegal Italian immigrants on Albanian soil, the Constitutional Court of Albania decided to suspend the agreement.
The agreement stipulates that Albania will give Italy the opportunity to use Albanian territory to establish, at its own expense and under its (Italy’s) jurisdiction, two centers for the management of 36,000 migrants per year, all of whom are male.
30 members of the opposition led by Sali Berisha and Gazment Bardhi appealed the agreement to the Constitutional Court. They claim that the state procedure of negotiation and signing was not respected, as the receipt of prior authorization from the President of the Republic was overlooked.
At the same time, the deputies requested the suspension of the vote in Parliament on the agreement, scheduled for December 14.
The Constitutional Court decided to accept the review of this case presented by the opposition MPs and set the date January 18, 2024 for the opening of the process. At the same time, the Constitutional Court suspended the anticipated voting of the agreement in the plenary session of December 14.
Voices against the agreement began to surface immediately after the signing by the heads of the 2 governments on November 6. Albanian citizens became aware of the existence of the agreement and its signing through a video originally published by Prime Minister Meloni, redistributed on Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Instagram social network, in Italian.
Italy and Albania signed today an important memorandum of understanding aimed at combating human trafficking and preventing irregular migration flows. A historic agreement for which I want to thank Prime Minister Edi Rama and the entire Albanian government !” – was written in the post.
The signed protocol had not yet been made public.
The government published the text of the signed agreement on its website a day later, on November 7. Despite the clarification of the protocol, many aspects of how these immigrant centers will function and the security of the surrounding area still remain unclear today.
The opposition of Sali Berisha called the agreement unconstitutional, which according to it promotes xenophobia and is in violation of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.
In the same line as that of the opposition, the reaction of Amnesty International was that it called the agreement ” illegal, unenforceable and should be cancelled “.
The European Union, through a spokesperson of the European Commission, told journalists that they are in contact with the Italian authorities, who have been asked for details about the agreement on immigration with Albania .
“We need to know what it contains before we comment .” – declared the spokeswoman of the European Commission, implying that the union was not aware of it.
In the absence of this information and details on the agreement, the media also found themselves. A part turned to experts and internationals to assess different aspects of the situation.
The lack of sufficient information to judge is a fact on which all experts agree.
Among them, former interior minister Sandër Lleshaj, in an article published in the media, considers the agreement a poor political and humanitarian move, as well as a threat to the country’s security.
“The absurd idea of ’hospitality centers’, which are actually conceived as literal detention camps, only proves the political and intellectual impotence of those charged with finding solutions. These camps are supposed to be created outside the territory of the EU, to actually be outside the law, since the European constitutions and legislation do not allow the development of procedures, which are supposed to be implemented in the camps outside the territory of the member countries. – writes former interior minister Lleshaj.
Other media used this lack of information to spread theses that incite hate speech and spread panic among citizens.
Narratives on the deal
In Albania, there were two theses raised on this ambiguity created by the agreement known as Rama-Meloni.
The first thesis was the repeated one about the “depopulation of Albania”. According to conspiracy theorist Akil Pano: ” in the last 10 years, we see that 1 million Albanians have left our country. While the country is depopulated, there is an agenda, the moment will come when it will be refilled”.
At the same time, there were media that drew parallels of what is expected to happen in Albania, with situations that are already happening in refugee camps in Italy. The article raised the question of whether Lezha can return to the next Lampedusa, causing concern among citizens, especially those from Lezha.
Lampedusa, one of Italy’s islands hosting asylum seekers who enter illegally, in September faced 11,000 asylum seekers in four days, almost double the number of resident residents.
In other cases, the media used the Italian Prime Minister’s own statements, paraphrasing them not faithfully and with the intention of instilling fear in the readers.
Among the refugees we will take to Albania, there may also be terrorists – the article reads in the title.
In fact, the Italian Prime Minister said that ” the equation between irregular immigration and terrorism is wrong, but there is no doubt that a broad context of illegality can become fertile ground for criminal organizations, even terrorist “.
The concern was also manifested in the streets of Lezha, where citizens protested against the agreement.
Another form of reaction was through satire or uncontrolled humor, using discriminatory and racist language.
Among them, that of the mayor of Lezha, Pjerin Ndreu, stood out, who called for the selection of the “most beautiful meme” for this issue, addressing the concern of the citizens of Lezha without the seriousness of an official.
All this narrative did not help clarify the agreement, on the contrary, it went beyond the borders of the two states that are directly involved in it.
An article published in Montenegro raised questions about the security of this country, precisely because of the agreement between Albania and Italy.
The article in question raised the claim that the agreement increases the risk of crimes in Montenegro since immigrants who will be treated in Albania ” do not know through which path they will seek a better life in the EU, of which Albania is not a part “. Another portal , this time in Serbia, raised questions about the agreement, calling it in fulfillment of the ” goals of the Open Balkan project launched by Aleksandar Vucic and financed by George Soros .”
The issue has been used as rhetoric in Serbia, fueled by the electoral campaign that precedes the December 17 elections.
One of the theses raised about this agreement is the one articulated by Sasa Borojević, a Serbian analyst who stated in an interview that the immigrants that Italy will bring to Albania will be transferred to Kosovo. The interview was then shared on the Facebook social network under the title: THEY WILL TRANSFER MIGRANTS TO KOSOVO (no one is talking about it) .
The decision of the Constitutional Court in Albania to suspend the voting of the Rama-Meloni agreement in the parliament, until its final decision, which is not expected before 2024, seems to have deflated the belief that the agreement will really be implemented.
The information provided so far by the protocol signed between the Albanian and Italian governments does not give a clear picture of what the two prime ministers have agreed to each other, which has fueled various unfounded theses that spread hate speech against immigrants. , racism and panic among citizens in Albania and especially in Lezhë, the city where the reception centers are expected to be built.
Apart from the shadows of this agreement and the reasonable concern of citizens in Albania regarding public and national security, since November, when the two prime ministers announced their decision-making, numerous theses have been raised in Albania and other countries of the region, not based on facts or official information, adding more confusion to citizens who are directly affected by this decision.