Albanian parliament approves contested migrant deal with Italy


Tirana, Feb 22 (AFP/APP):Albania's parliament on Thursday approved a controversial deal signed with Italy to host two holding centres for migrants rescued in Italian waters. 
              The deal, which required a simple majority approval, passed with the backing of 77 MPs of the 140-seat parliament, with the opposition boycotting the vote. 
              The agreement has been denounced by opposition parties in both countries as well as by rights groups, resulting in a legal challenge taken up by the top court in Tirana. 
              Late last month, Albania's constitutional court approved the deal, paving the way for Thursday's vote.  
              The parliamentary approval came weeks after Italian MPs also voted in favour of the agreement, with the lower chamber of parliament backing the deal by 155 votes to 115, with two abstentions. 
              The accord allows for two centres to be built near the Albanian port of Shengjin, where migrants would register for asylum, as well as a facility in the same region to house those awaiting a response to their applications.
              The centres, to be managed by Italy, can hold a maximum of 3,000 people at any one time while they await a decision on their claims.
              The Albanian right-wing opposition has lambasted Prime Minister Edi Rama for an alleged lack of transparency over the agreement, calling the deal an "irresponsible and dangerous act for national security".