Humanitarian aid coming into Albania from Kosovo has to be handed over to the state, or the organisation bringing it could face legal action for “stealing”, according to a Christian organisation that contacted Exit with their story.
After the earthquake, the Kosovo Evangelical Protestant Church (KPUK) were sending aid to the Evangelical Alliance of Albania (VUSH) for them to distribute to citizens impacted by the deadly earthquake that hit Albania this week.
When they arrived at the border between Kosovo and Albania, the Albanian border police told them that “no aid will be allowed to enter Albania unless it goes to the state organised collection points.
The KPUK would have been able to take the aid to Durres where VUSH were helping citizens, but they would have had to deposit it at the state warehouse and get the signature of a government official, confirming they had handed it over. Upon returning to the border, if they were unable to present the signature, “there would be legal consequences because it would be assumed that KPUK had stolen the material”, a member of KPUK present at the border told Exit.
Upon being told this at the border, the KPUK called the General Secretary of VUSH to ask how to proceed. They then called the customs officer and negotiated the passage of the goods “this time but not in the future”. They were told that in order to distribute aid in Albania without depositing it with the state for them to distribute as they wish, they would need to get a written exemption from the government.
VUSH confirmed that they will no longer be able to receive and distribute aid unless they hand it over to the government as soon as it enters Albania.
Jeta Berisha, an activist from Pristina published a similar story on her Facebook account, but this time accompanied by a video showing arguments between their organisation bringing aid, and state officials.
She wrote about how they had been distributing donated aid amongst those in need when they were ordered to stop by various government employees.
Berisha wrote, “with all our soul we were trying to share the things we had brought until they [the state officials] stopped us.”
She claimed that her team were threatened with arrest if they continued to share the aid they had brought from Kosovo and were told: “we decide what is distributed by your help and where and when they are distributed.”
“People were sleeping in the rain and the aid was barricaded in the warehouse,” she added.
Blendi Cuci, Minister of Agriculture and PM Rama’s appointee to manage relief operations, told A2 Media that this was due to the vast amounts of aid being sent to Albania. He added that “we are trying to channel any help through state reserves to avoid any abuse. We have set up appropriate structures for controlling these aids.”
Exit had previously reported on a convoy from Serbia and Kosovo being stopped from delivering aid to Thumane and Durres by the state. Members of the convoy also told Exit how they saw items being misappropriated and were aware of items such as blankets being sold.
Several police and one firefighter were arrested for such crimes yesterday.
Prime Minister Edi Rama called for people to stop sending aid and to donate to government bank accounts instead, stating the needs of citizens had been met. This was despite the vast numbers of calls for help made on social media and to those volunteering to coordinate aid.