Afghan refugees welcome in the Balkans



While in France, the declarations of Emmanuel Macron on the need to “Protect against irregular migratory flows” have generated strong criticism, other European states are more inclined to open their doors. In particular Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia. The three small Balkan countries, with low reception capacities, will temporarily host a few hundred Afghan refugees who have been forced to flee their country since the Taliban returned to power on Sunday August 15.

The call of the United States

As of Sunday, Albania responded positively to the request of the United States, which asked it to come to the aid of the Afghan refugees, by offering to welcome 250 on its territory. Kosovo did the same, without specifying a number. North Macedonia followed suit two days later, saying it was ready to welcome 450 candidates for exile.

→ EXPLANATION. In Afghanistan, will the inhabitants flee their country?

The latter will be accommodated temporarily, while waiting to obtain a visa for the United States, the country in which they are intended to settle. Among them, we find mainly families who have collaborated with ISAF, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as well as human rights defenders.

“Albania is ready to shoulder its share of the burden”

“These decisions are not surprising, remarks Sébastien Gricourt, director of the Balkans observatory of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. They are responding to the call of a very good ally. ” NATO members, Albania and North Macedonia participated in the organization’s operations in Afghanistan. “Albania, a member of NATO, is ready to shoulder its share of the burden”Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on his Facebook page on August 15.

→ MAINTENANCE. “We have a moral responsibility to protect the Afghans engaged with us”

Kosovo, a former Serbian province with an Albanian majority, has accepted ” without hesitation “ to help Afghan migrants. “We must be at the side of our friends, especially the United States, because they have been at our side”Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani said on her Facebook account.

“Eternal recognition”

“Kosovo vows eternal gratitude to the United States”, says Sébastien Gricourt. In Pristina, the capital, a statue of former US President Bill Clinton sits on the eponymous boulevard. In his right hand, he holds a document on which appears “March 24, 1999”, the date on which the NATO bombing of neighboring Serbia began, under the leadership of Washington.

The young Republic still considers the American giant as the main architect of its independence, obtained almost ten years later, on February 17, 2008. “The entire country has been rebuilt with American aid”, adds Nathalie Duclos, lecturer at the François-Rabelais University in Tours.

Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo did not miss the opportunity to reiterate their allegiance to their American godfather. These three small countries face several spheres of influence. “On one side you have Russia and its Serbian bridgehead, and on the other Turkey, explains Sébastien Gricourt. These two presences are closely monitored. “

“We want to help them because we know what they are going through”

In these three countries, the reception of refugees is not controversial. Even if Islam is the majority religion in Albania and Kosovo and that of a third of the population of North Macedonia, the religious question seems to play little in the reception of migrants of the same faith.

The three states recall that they too have seen some of their inhabitants flee from war in recent decades. “This memory is very anchored in the memories”, affirms Andi Pinari historian at the University of Tirana, capital of Albania. The plight of Afghan refugees resonates with the personal history of many families and has an important symbolic dimension. “ It’s not just politics or religion, concludes Andi Pinari. We want to help them because we know what they are going through. “

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