Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 8, 2019 09:25

Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

Story Highlights

  • The Albanian government is only now making efforts to return to Albania all women and children in the camp, already under the process of identification. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

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TIRANA, Nov. 6 – Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus.

His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was alone.

“The boy is currently in Damascus, I am waiting for him to leave for Rome,” he said.

On an operational level, Alvin’s rescuing mission was carried out over four days by the organization ‘Syrian Half Moon,’ in cooperation with the International Red Cross but under the communication of Italian and Albanian police forces. 

The Italian media reported that both the Albanian and Italian governments were aware about the situation and operation, while on a diplomatic level the Albanian Embassy to Italy was also notified in advance.

Alvin’s father had been looking for him since 2014, when his Albanian mother abandoned his family in Italy where they had lived for years and took Alvin, then six years old, to the Al Haul camp in Syria in the border with Turkey.

His Albanian mother, who started wearing a hijab, began to pray and displayed radical behavior before abducting him by his father, had died in the camp along with a foreign man whom she had married. 

Alvin remained alone, and after many attempts by his father, the investigative show “Le Iene” managed to find Alvin and meet his father after five years.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities called Alvin’s rescue mission an unprecedented one. 

 

Gov’t: “28 Albanian children currently in Kurdish camps”

The Albanian government is now making efforts to return to Albania all women and children in the  camp, already under the process of identification. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

“Albania has established contacts during June and July. A potential repatriation operation was discussed at the end of August. But the situation on the ground changed. The operation froze. The US has withdrawn and there is a new geopolitical situation on the ground,” said Spiropali.

According to her, about 500 people from the Balkans are still there, 150 are Albanians, 72 are from Albania, 11-13 men classified as terrorists in prisons controlled by Kurdish forces.

“Of the 1,000 individuals from the Western Balkans in that area, about 400 have returned to their home countries, making this region the largest concentration of foreign fighters in Europe,” Spiropali said.

Spiropali’s interpellation was requested by a group of lawmakers seeking information on the rescue operations of Alvin, who attracted the attention of Italian journalists because his father lives in Italy. 

“Alvin’s father received a letter from him in June. His presence at the camp was announced by the International Red Cross near the Albanian embassy in Cairo in early September. We have tried to help the Berisha family. Our embassy was informed on September 22 that a group of Italian journalists would travel to the camp, which was carried out on September 28. Officially, this is a difficult job,” said Spiropali.

She added that the situation in Syria continues to be complicated as a conflict zone with limited information.

Many Albanians traveled undocumented and crossed the border illegally, so complete identification and complition of the operation is a difficult task due to the lack of counterpart institutions, as their Albanian documents have disappeared and they have been generally equipped with Caliphate documents, which too have been torn down to prevent ISIS from being identified.

“The Albanian state is doing everything possible to return women and children from those camps. These territories are controlled by paramilitary structures and do not comply with international rules on the release of persons or the exchange of captives. In the re-ignited situation, operational steps cannot be made public at all, because those persons’ lives would be endangered by revealing their identities,” said Spiropali.

It has been reported that among them there are also Albanian children born in the conflict area, but their number cannot be confirmed.

 

Albania included in US State Department’s terrorism report 

The US State Department released its annual Terrorism Report, which summarizes the achievements and challenges of the United States and its allies in combating and defeating terrorist organizations during 2018.

Despite achievements against the Islamic State’s terrorist organization, the report says Europe continues to face a number of threats from foreign terrorist organizations, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, internally cultivated terrorism, and Iranian-backed terrorists.

Albania is also mentioned among the European countries that took concrete steps against the terrorism backed by the Iranian regime. 

The section on Albania states that the country continued to strongly support anti-terror efforts and continued to participate in the Global Coalition for the Elimination of ISIS. 

Meanwhile, terrorist threats in Albania come from foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, as well as efforts to radicalize the Albanian youth towards violence. 

In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian officials, including the Iranian Ambassador, in response to an Iranian-sponsored plan to carry out a terrorist attack in Albania. 

Albania continues to benefit from US government-funded assistance programs for the training of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts and judges. Despite efforts to prevent the financing of terrorism, the conclusion of MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe body, cites Albania’s “low effectiveness” in the three main directions of terrorist financing: confiscation, investigation and extension of financial sanctions.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 8, 2019 09:25