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Update No. 97/01 on ICRC activities in Albania

10-03-1997 Operational Update

 ICRC takes action in Albania as a result of the current unrest  

The upsurge in violence in Albania comes after six weeks of unrest, following the collapse of pyramid investment schemes in which thousands of people lost their savings. Fourteen people were reported killed in the southern town of Vlore over the weekend. A state of emergency was declared on 2 March and a night-time curfew imposed.

The ICRC, which acts in situations of internal unrest such as this, sent a delegate to the capital Tirana on 4 March to meet with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The offer of a permanent presence by the ICRC was welcomed and delegates will arrive to set up an office next week. Requests have also been made for meetings between the highest authorities and the ICRC Delegate General for Western and Central Europe and the Balkans.

There is still great uncertainty about what direction the crisis is going to take but the fact that people are being wounded and possibly detained as a result of the violence is of greatest concern to the ICRC.

 Detainees  

During a mission to Albania two weeks ago, the delegation presented a plan of action for developing detention activities in the country. Owing to the acceleration of the situation, the head of delegation has requested a meeting with the Minister for the Interior, to discuss ICRC access to detainees.

 Albanian Red Cross  

Over the weekend, the Albanian Red Cross (ARC) visited Vlore on two occasions, delivering medical equipment to Vlore hospital, where those wounded as a result of the violence were being treated. On 5 March the ICRC delegates accompanied the ARC on a mission from Tirana to the town of Fier, in the south of the country, to deliver one tonne of food assistance for use by the hospital in Vlore. There have been unconfirmed reports of food shortages in the region, due to widespread looting and the closure of some routes into and out of the area. In support of the Albanian Red Cross, the ICRC is organizing the transport from Zagreb to Tirana of enough surgical material to treat 300 people.