Photo: Facebook - US Embassy Prishtina

Kosovo leaders welcome first Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban

The President, Prime Minister and Western ambassadors greeted a group of 111 Afghan refugees flown in to Kosovo on Sunday – the first of some 2,000 in total – who will be temporarily housed in the country for up to a year.

Refugees fleeing the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan were flown in to Prishtina airport on Sunday evening, where they received medical check-ups before being sent onwards to the town of Ferizaj.

They will be staying in a former camp built by the US-Turkish construction company Bechtel Enka, situated in front of the US military base Bondsteel, having arrived via a US military plane.

Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla announced that a total of 111 people had arrived from Kabul.

“The number of Afghan nationals who are here today is 111, women, children and the elderly who are relatives of NATO collaborators in Afghanistan,” Svecla said, adding that the rest of the group were accepted to arrive from Monday onwards.

Svecla also announced that they will be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kosovo’s President, Vjosa Osmani, and Prime Minister Albin Kurti, as well as QUINT countries’ ambassadors to Kosovo [represending the US, UK, France Germany and Italy] were all at the airport to welcome the first group of refugees.

“Today we show in front of all of them that we have not only opened our doors but also our hearts because as people who come from genocidal rule we understand very well what it means to be forced to leave your home,” Osmani said, referencing Kosovo Albanians’ trauma under Serbia’s harsh rule in the 1990s.

“When it comes to humanitarian issues, and when it comes to partners and allies such as the US and NATO, the question is not why, but how. So, all the issues we are discussing are of a technical and logistical nature,” PM Kurti added.

The US Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett, said at the airport that, “by temporarily hosting Afghans en route to permanent homes elsewhere, Kosovo is not only saving lives but giving Afghans an opportunity to build new ones”.

The British ambassador to Kosovo, Nicholas Abbott, also present, expressed the UK’s gratitude to Kosovo for the reception given to the Afghan refugees via a Facebook post a few hours after the refugees arrived.

“I feel honoured to be at Prishtina airport this evening, after meeting the first evacuees from Afghanistan arriving in Kosovo. Grateful for Kosovar hospitality,” Abbott wrote.

Local Kosovo media outlet Koha reported that after receiving medical check-ups two Afghan children were sent for treatment at the University Clinical Centre in Prishtina.

Kosovo is expected to host around 2,000 Afghan refugees, Blerim Vela, the chief of staff of the president announced on Twitter on August 25. Kosovo has approved temporary protection for Afghan citizens who worked with the US and NATO forces and their families. They have said the refugees will be offered temporary shelter for up to a year.

Albania and North Macedonia are the other two countries accepting Afghan refugees in the region. The Albanian authorities have prepared several sites in Tirana, Durres and Berat, including hotels and student accommodation, where the Afghans who are expected to come will stay for several weeks.

30/08/2021 - 12:50

30 August 2021 - 12:50

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.