From: Alice Taylor
Diaspora Call for Justice Over Torched Touristic Business in Theth

Following a suspected arson attack on the ‘Buni i Bajraktarit’ hostel complex in Qafe Thore, Theth, members of the Albanian diaspora and other individuals have written to Prime Minister Edi Rama to raise their concerns.

At the end of March, the complex which has benefitted from several million euros in investment was set on fire. Both the owner Gezim Olaj and local residents called the police but the damage was already done. Olaj had been living in England and had returned to Theth to invest in the property and to encourage tourism in the area.

Olaj told the media that he has no known conflict with anyone and doesn’t understand why his business was targeted.

“We are trying to gather ourselves. I hope the police will investigate. I have no enemy. I come from London and I invested around EUR 3 million. We don’t have security cameras as there is no electricity and I removed the guard in January. They took advantage of the opportunity,” he said.

The arsonists burned down a restaurant, accommodation, and buildings that were under construction. He speculated that perhaps someone was jealous of the competition and that he’s sure it was intentional.

The business was considered a catalyst for the area which has been attracting more interest from tourists in recent years. As a response to the attack and the implications, a letter was drafted, signed, and sent to Rama as well as the Minister of Tourism Bledi Klosi, the Minister of the Interior, Bledi Cuci and officials from the State and Local Police.

“We are deeply concerned about the deliberate arson and destruction of accommodation and service structures of Bunit i Bajraktarit in Qafe Thore….a business built by a member of the diaspora which has played a transformative role in the economy of the area and served as an employment catalyst in a region that was until recently, left out of the tourist map of the country.”

They noted that not only does its destruction impact those working there, but it impacts the entire support chain for the business including seasonal employees and local farmers who supply it. The attack, they said, has shaken the short and long-term prospects of the community, as well as the development of mountain tourism.

Such incidents, if left unsolved can damage the reputation of Albania and put off those who may want to develop or invest in the area.

“Law enforcement agencies must do their part to prove by force of law that vandalism of property and threats to legitimate business are unacceptable and punishable.”

They called on the Prime Minister and other individuals to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice and to support the revival of the business.