Albanian Repatriates Arrive in Tirana from Syria’s Al-Hawl Camp

Some 19 Albanians, 14 children and 5 women, arrived in Tirana on a flight from Beirut, Lebanon, arranged by the Albanian government on Sunday being freed from the Al-Hawl camp in Syria after a repatriation operation in which Prime Minister Edi Rama was involved.

Rama, who was on this repatriation mission in Beirut on Friday, welcomed the repatriates at the airport of Rinas, and announced during a press statement that more Albanians are expected to be repatriated soon from the same camp.

This is the third operation repatriating Albanian women and children trapped in Syria for many years in the so- called hell camps. Five more children and a woman were repatriated in two previous operations last year.

It is the largest number of repatriates since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, driving an uncertain number of Albanians to join different groups fighting against government troops of Bashar al-Assad, including the Islamic State (ISIS).

A few hundred Albanian men joined the Islamic State and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in the early 2010s. Many were killed, and their wives and children are stuck in Syrian camps.

There are 30 more Albanians at the camp but not all agree to return home, according to Gledis Nano, the head of the operation. Collaboration with intelligence services of a number of countries, particularly with the Lebanese government is underway for more repatriations.

While there is no official data on the dozens Albanian men killed, still fighting or living in the region, the wives and children of many of them have been living for years at the Al-Hawl camp.

Media outlets published on Sunday the names of the Albanian repatriates as following: Brunilda Koçollari with 5 children from Tirana, Emanuela Vladi with 4 children from Dibra, Ruzhdije Balliu from Librazhd, Lavdie Kaca with 2 children from Tirana and Klotilda Zani with 3 children from Tirana.

The government head said in Sunday’s press conference it is a very positive event. “I believe, and, of course, we shall not stop here,” said Rama, announcing that the repatriated group will be taken to a specialized shelter in Durres where they will get the necessary medical and psychological aid. After a short period of quarantine they will be taken to their homes if they have any or will be staying in special places set up for this occasion.

Quoted by VoA Rama spoke of the difficult work done to free the Albanian women and children from the camps in Syria, and according to him, the mission will continue. But he announced that more than half of those held in those camps have already been repatriated. /