Italy’s £680m Rwanda-style migrant centres condemned as ‘useless and expensive propaganda’

italy’s £680m rwanda-style migrant centres condemned as ‘useless and expensive propaganda’

A construction site for one of the centres in Shengjin, pictured earlier this month. Opposition MPs said 'nothing' had been built at a second site about 15 miles away - ADNAN BECI/AFP

Italy’s much-vaunted scheme to divert migrants to two centres in Albania so far amounts to nothing more than “a few bulldozers and a dozen workers,” opposition MPs claim.

The plan to intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean and transfer those on board to two facilities in northern Albania was announced amid much fanfare by Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, last autumn.

Ms Meloni said the centres would be up and running by this week. However, they are far from operational.

Like the British Government’s scheme to send migrants to Rwanda, Italy’s Albania plan has been subject to legal challenges – not by human rights groups but by Albania’s constitutional court.

The court in Tirana eventually gave the green light for the project to go ahead.

However, construction delays mean that the facilities may not be ready until October or November at the earliest.

One centre is due to be built in the holiday resort of Shengjin, on the Adriatic coast in northern Albania, while the other will be in the village of Gjader about 15 miles away.

italy’s £680m rwanda-style migrant centres condemned as ‘useless and expensive propaganda’

Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, announced the plans last autumn - TIZIANA FABI/AFP

“The migrant centre should have been up and running two days ago,” said Matteo Mauri, one of four MPs from the centre-Left Democratic Party, the main opposition bloc, who visited Gjader this week.

However, the MPs said they had found little activity at the construction site, which is located on a former Cold War military airfield.

Mr Mauri said: “We saw about a dozen workers and a few bulldozers but nothing has been built. Right now, you struggle even to realise that this is a construction site.

“The government’s attempt to give themselves an electoral boost ahead of the European elections has failed miserably. We are looking at 70,000 square metres of nothing. We have come here to show that the whole thing is useless and expensive electoral propaganda.”

Ms Meloni has pledged to reduce the number of boats arriving in Italy from North Africa. Last year more than 155,000 migrants and refugees reached Italian shores, compared with 105,000 in 2022.

The cost of building the two centres – which has been estimated at €800 million (£680 million) – would be better spent on improving the Italian health system, the MPs said.

italy’s £680m rwanda-style migrant centres condemned as ‘useless and expensive propaganda’

A group of migrants look out to sea after being rescued off the coast of Malta. More than 155,000 reached Italian shores last year - CLEMENT MELKI/AFP

Simona Bonafe, another opposition MP, said: “It is obvious that there are still months of work to complete, whereas in theory we should have seen thousands of migrants here.”

Enzo Amendola, also from the Democratic Party, added: “The government is throwing away mountains of public money. From the initial estimates of €650 million (£550 million), the estimated cost has now become €800 million (£680 million).”

Under the government’s plan, the facility in Gjader will accommodate up to 3,000 migrants each month, with 36,000 expected to pass through each year as their asylum applications are assessed by Italian officials.

Those who have their asylum applications accepted will be flown back to Italy. Those that are rejected will be repatriated to their home countries.

Despite the delays over the migrant plan, the latest polls show Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party remains the most popular among Italians, with 26.5 per cent of the vote. The Democratic Party has the support of 22 per cent of voters, polls suggest.

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