Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia Prepare to Shelter Fleeing Afghans

The three Balkan countries are preparing to give temporary refuge to several hundred civilians who are seeking to escape after the Taliban seized control over Afghanistan.

Albania is reported to be about to give refuge to some 250 Afghan civilians over the course of the next few days, North Macedonia is expecting to take in around 390 and Kosovo is also preparing to receive an unnamed number of people fleeing Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban at the weekend.

The three countries said the refugees, whose lives are potentially in danger if they remain in Afghanistan, will be accommodated temporarily until they are transferred to the US or into third countries. None of them has so far stated their overall capacity for accepting such refugees.

Voice of America on Tuesday cited unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that some 250 civilians would be in the first group expected to arrive in Albania, primarily people who have worked with the Western alliance in Afghanistan, such as translators, cooks and other staff, along with their families.

The mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, confirmed that the first group is expected to reach Albania over the next few days on US military flights and will be accommodated in the capital Tirana in five student dormitories. He added that when hotels in city of Durres have fewer tourists, refugees might be accommodated there too.

North Macedonia initially said on Monday it was expecting some 190 Afghan civilians, but Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said on Tuesday that a request to host an additional 200 people has been received.

“However, given that the number of flights from Kabul is significantly restricted, we cannot know for sure when these civilians will arrive in our country,” Osmani told media in Skopje on Tuesday.

Authorities said that the first small group that is expected to arrive will comprise six women and children of people who were employed at the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The North Macedonia’s government said that it is working on securing accommodation in hostels, hotels and resorts, saying that the expenses should be paid by international organisations and the US.

“The civilians will be accommodated and taken care of for a limited time period, until they can be transferred to the US or to third countries. This will be determined in coordination with our strategic partners and the international organisations,” the government stated.

The government explained that the Afghans will primarily be people who have worked for humanitarian organisations, media and human rights groups and who in the past 20 years have been helping maintain peace in Afghanistan, plus their families. Upon arrival, they will be put in a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine or offered vaccines if they need them.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti told media on Tuesday that his government has been in talks with the US about the “logistical, organisational and technical aspect but also the security, sheltering and protection of a number of refugees from Afghanistan”, but gave no specific figures.

BIRN contacted Kosovo’s government for more details but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

Newspaper Koha reported that the refugees from Afghanistan might be accommodated in two asylum centres but also at an innovation park in the town of Prizren and at the French KFOR camp in Vushtrri/Vucitrn.

Koha reported that these sites could theoretically accommodate up to 10,000 people.

Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said on Monday that Kosovo has a moral obligation to save lives as a country that experienced an exodus of its own population during the 1990s war.

Svecla said that the refugees will “be given a place where they will be temporarily safe, enjoying all the fundamental rights under our legislation and institutional support until a lasting solution is found in the United States.”

US President Joe Biden has decided to allocate up to $500 million to help refugees from Afghanistan after the US-backed government collapsed and the Taliban took control, the White House said in a statement on Monday.

These funds will be used “for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan”.

Evacuation flights resumed from Kabul airport on Tuesday as countries rushed to get their nationals, and Afghans who aided Western missions, out of the country

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