Italy: Deal to detain refugees and migrants offshore in Albania ‘illegal and unworkable’

Responding to the announcement that the Italian and Albanian Prime Ministers yesterday signed an agreement to construct two centres in Albania in which to detain people rescued at sea by Italian ships, including people seeking safety, Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International said:

People rescued at sea by Italian authorities, including those seeking safety in Europe, are under Italian jurisdiction and cannot be taken to another country before their asylum request and individual circumstances have been examined. It is as simple as that.

Elisa De Pieri, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International

This agreement is about refoulement, a practice which is banned under international and European law, and for which Italy has already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights. It is illegal, unworkable, and it must be scrapped.

“Italy has claimed that the people detained would remain under Italian jurisdiction, but the reality is that the deal will be used to circumvent national, international and EU law. That could have devastating consequences for people seeking asylum, who could be subjected to lengthy detention and other violations, outside the scrutiny of Italian judicial authorities. The European Commission has already made it clear that EU asylum law cannot be applied outside the EU.

“While details of the agreement are yet to be disclosed, a number of concerns are already emerging. Amnesty International calls on the Italian government to uphold its international law obligations on non-refoulement, to guarantee asylum and calls on the European Commission to ensure that member states do not breach the asylum acquis.”


Refoulement is the practice of sending anyone to a country where they are at risk of human rights violations. Protection from refoulement is a basic right of asylum seekers and refugees. Non-refoulement is a core principle of international refugee law, as part of customary international law, it is binding on all States. The principle of non-refoulement is also enshrined in EU law in Article 78(1) TFEU and Article 18 and 19 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The European Commission already made it clear in 2018 that extraterritorial application of EU law is currently not possible.

Italy has already been condemned for violation of the non-refoulement principle by the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 for in the Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy case.