Albanian women and children return from Syria camps

Albania repatriated five women and 14 children on Sunday from camps in Syria that house family members of former jihadist fighters, prime minister Edi Rama said. 

Since the March 2019 fall of the Islamist State militant group’s last stronghold, local Kurds who led the anti-jihadist fight have been calling for the repatriation of thousands of foreign women and children held in overcrowded camps.

But most countries are reluctant to take back their citizens.

According to official figures, 144 Albanians  left to fight in Syria and Iraq between 2012 and 2014. 

Many of the men were killed and their relatives in Albania believe that some 30 mothers and children are stuck in the camps.

“Getting these children and women out of hell was a very complicated operation,” Rama told reporters during a visit to Lebanon on Sunday.

He said they would be taken to a shelter for medical and psychological examinations before a decision is made on whether to allow them to rejoin their families.

Albanian officials said repatriations would continue, but added they could not confirm the exact number of those remaining because the situation changed regularly. 

Last week, neighbouring North Macedonia and Kosovo repatriated 34 nationals from Syria, including men suspected of fighting for the Islamic State militant group.