Nine months after they were evacuated from Kabul to Albania, a group of Afghan refugees this week protested against the long wait for their visas to the US. They were among some 2,400 evacuees Albania took in following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. According to media reports, some of the 900 Afghans who remain in Albania could be evicted from the hotels where they are staying.
A group of people evacuated from Afghanistan last year held a protest in Albania on Wednesday (June 1) over the failure to expedite their relocation to the United States, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported on the same day.
In Shengjin, a coastal town located 70 kilometers north of the Albanian capital Tirana, a small group of families called on the US to speed up the process of their transfer. Some women and children held posters reading "We are forgotten.''
As the radical-Islamic Taliban returned to power last year, some 2,400 Afghans were evacuated to Albania in August and September 2021 and given temporary shelter in Shengjin and another resort town, Durres, according to AP.
The US and non-governmental organizations provided financial support for accommodating them.
Reports about possible evictions
On Thursday (June 2), online media outlet Euractiv reported that many of the Afghan refugees staying in hotels in coastal resort towns like Shengjin now face being evicted.
According to a document from the Afghan Rescue Project (ARP), which represents some of the Afghans legally, the Albanian government negotiated a contract with the Rafaelo Resort to accommodate some 370 people for over €400,000 a month.
"The delays paired with the attention the war in Ukraine is receiving has caused us major fundraising issues," the letter states. According to ARP, Rafaelo had started confiscating some refugees' passports as a result.
According to another document, reportedly written by a sponsor of the Afghans and sent to US government officials, the reason behind the looming evictions is also the start of the tourist season.
"The tourist season on the coast is now beginning, and concerns have been raised that evacuees have been staying there far longer than anticipated," the document reads.
900 Afghans remain in Albania
After the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan last August, Albania agreed to host thousands of Afghan refugees for at least a year while they were being vetted for visas for the US, where they would move for final settlement. More recently, the government announced the evacuees could stay longer than a year if their US visas were delayed.
Although some in the country at the time felt that Albania had a duty to help its NATO ally, others felt as though the country was struggling enough as it is.
The Republic of Albania is a non-EU but NATO member country located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a population of 2.8 million. It is one of the poorest nations in Europe.
According to AP citing the Albanian Foreign Ministry, 900 Afghan refugees remain in Albania. Those no longer in the European country already managed to go to the US and Canada.
Bledar Shima, the manager of a resort in said coastal town of Shengjin that shelters 350 Afghans, said the property has not been paid for six months, AP reported. Shima urged the Albanian government to intervene, according to private TV station Top Channel.
Albania has also taken in a few hundred Ukrainian refugees after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It is unclear how many of them are currently still in the country.