Albania is repatriating five Albanian women and 14 children from Syria's troubled Al Hol camp, the country's prime minister said Saturday.
The women and children were related to Albanian men who joined ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Interior Minister Bledi Cuci met Lebanon's Gen Abass Ibrahim in Beirut. Gen Ibrahim has played an important role in the repatriation efforts, together with intelligence services from other countries.
“The good news is that the 14 children and five women [have been taken out] from the hell camp,” said Mr Rama. “I am here to take the children and women and [return] them to our homeland tomorrow.”
Mr Rama said that Albania's Interior Ministry and other intelligence institutions were closely co-operating with Lebanese authorities and other countries on the repatriation exercise.
“It is a very complicated operation for many reasons but due to the close ties I have set with Gen Abbas here and because of the close co-operation between the Interior Ministry and the authorities, we are closely following all processes. We may successfully complete this operation,” said Mr Rama.
He did not specify whether the husbands were alive or dead or if any of the women will face terrorism charges upon their return.
“What is important is that the pledge to repatriate all those is a vital pledge, a commitment that will be fulfilled to the end, even though, now that we are talking, we have managed to repatriate only those of whom we have information,“ said Mr Rama.
This is Albania's third effort in repatriating its citizens from Syrian territories where fighting continues. An Albanian child was returned home in 2019, followed by five other Albanians in October last year.
Several hundred Albanian men joined ISIS and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in early 2010. Many were killed and their wives and children are stuck in Syrian camps.
Relatives in Albania say about 30 other Albanian children and women are in the Syrian camps. However, Mr Rama said he had doubts about the number “because the information is updated daily”.