After receiving temporary shelter in Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo, Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban takeover are being transported to Western countries for more permanent stays.

Afghan Refugees Slowly Leave Balkan Countries for West

Afghan evacuees arrive at Pristina airport in Kosovo on August 29, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Several thousand refugees evacuated in August and September after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and given temporary shelter in the three Balkan countries, are slowly beginning to dwindle in numbers.

After sorting out security and other formal checks, Western countries are accepting them on their own soil, transport them in batches for further temporary settlement there.

Albania hosted the largest number of Afghan evacuees, and still does. Of a total of 2,400 refugees evacuated to Albania, 150 have now left on flights to the United States and several other EU countries, Albania’s Foreign Ministry told BIRN. Those still placed in hotels in Durres and Shengjin remain under Albanian temporary protection that lasts for a year.

The ministry told BIRN that they are not expecting more refugees in Albania, meaning as soon as more refugees are cleared for departure, their numbers should gradually decrease further.

North Macedonia currently hosts 407 Afghan evacuees, 76 of whom have already left for three different countries. Ten left for France in mid-October, after which another 27 flew to Ireland, and another 35 people left for a more permanent stay in neighbouring Greece.

The evacuees still in North Macedonia are mainly stationed in hotels near the capital, Skopje, and other smaller places. “They are well taken care of. They have all the necessities provided, and access to internet, and to other activities and courses organised for them,” North Macedonia’s Red Cross told BIRN.

They are also allowed to move relatively freely, with daily bus trips to the capital for shopping and other activities.

In Kosovo, rights groups were most concerned about the lack of transparency over this issue in the country. According to the Kosovo Interior Ministry,  971 Afghans have been placed there in two refugee camps.

Most were placed in a former camp built by the US-Turkish construction company Bechtel Enka, and some were placed at Camp Liya, located within the US military Camp Bondsteel.

But BIRN has been unable to uncover how many of these people have officially been transported to other countries, or how many have maybe arrived additionally.

The Interior Ministry and government did not respond to BIRN’s queries, nor did the US embassy. Media on December 8 reported that 265 of the Afghans had gone to Canada.

“Today we bid farewell to our 265 Afghan friends, who in the early morning hours left Pristina for Canada,” a Kosovo Interior Ministry statement read at the time. Earlier, in December, the Ministry of interior also said another group of 54 people left for the US.

On Friday, another group of 79 more refugees left for the US.

Source link: