Four Albanian children held in a camp housing families of extremists in northeastern Syria are on their way to Lebanon ahead of repatriation, the Red Crescent said Monday.
The children were headed for “Damascus then... the Lebanese border, and from Lebanon, they will go to Albania,” Rahaf Aboud, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Red Crescent, told AFP.
The children, who had initially been taken to the Kurdish-run city of Qamishli, were “in good health”, Aboud said, after their departure from al-Hol camp.
The operation to remove them took place at the request of the Albanian government, she said.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama was travelling to Beirut for the repatriation, scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
“We are in the process of repatriating four Albanian children from the hell of the Al-Hol camp tomorrow to Albania, thanks to a really complicated operation and after more than a year of efforts,” Rama said on Facebook.Since before
the fall in March 2019 of ISIS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Syria, Kurdish forces have managed several camps housing thousands of civilians in the northeast of the country who fled the fighting.
The largest is al-Hol, which also houses the wives of foreign ISIS fighters and their children.
“This operation opens the way to a second operation to repatriate other children who still find themselves in al-Hol camp,” Rama said, just before departing for the Lebanese capital.
Albanian police say at least 40 Albanian children are stuck in al-Hol, including several orphans.
But the Red Crescent spokeswoman told AFP she had no information about other Albanian children who could be repatriated.
An official Albanian delegation had arrived on Thursday in northeastern Syria where they met Kurdish officials, according to the foreign affairs department of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that runs the area.
The Kurds, backed heavily by a US-led coalition in the fight against ISIS, have repeatedly demanded that countries of origin repatriate foreign fighters and their families.
But many nations have been slow to oblige, other than to bring back orphans.
In November 2019 an 11-year-old Albanian boy called Alvin Berisha was reunited with his family in Italy after leaving the camp.
Earlier this month Kurdish forces freed more than 600 Syrian prisoners detained over links to ISIS.