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Albanian father rescues son who had been kidnapped to live under IS

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Alvin Berisha was taken to Syria by his Mother for 5 years, his dad was kidnapped whilst trying to save his son in Syria
Alvin Berisha was taken to Syria by his Mother for 5 years, his dad was kidnapped whilst trying to save his son in Syria   -   Copyright  Euronews
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Five years after his wife had kidnapped their son to live with the Islamic State group in Syria, Afrim Berisha managed to rescue his son Alvin, who was stuck in a refugee camp.

Alvin was only six when his mother converted to Islam, packed him up, and abandoned his father in Albania to join the IS in Syria.

When Berisha, his father, realised what had happened, he decided to go to Syria to try and find his son.

Berisha told Euronews that he "could only think of Alvin. I wasn't interested in anything else." He added that he "considered the risks, but what was I to do?"

Just two weeks after his wife had taken Alvin, Berisha arrived in Syria. During his one-week-long stay, he was captured by the IS.

Father escapes out of IS captivity

Berisha got lucky. He managed to pay his way out of captivity by paying €500 to an Albanian IS fighter.

After the ordeal, Berisha left Syria but returned every year to find Alvin despite the risky security situation, but to no avail.

Years in, Berisha finally received a letter from his son, asking him to bring him home. In the letter, Alvin mentions his location.

Alvin's mother had been killed in the fight for Bahouz, in the far east of the country near Deir-el-zour. The boy was injured and left alone. He spent nearly six months in the Al-Hawl refugee camp.

What does this mean for the other children at Al-Hawl?

Some believe that thousands of other European children of the IS remain at the camp. Lawyer Darien Levani told Euronews that he believes that Berisha has "taken on the responsibility that governments don't want to take" by bringing Alvin home.

He also thinks that this particular father-son story will help inform more people about the circumstances children in these camps are living in.

Levani said:" The most important thing he did was to let the public know what is going on." According to the lawyer, this story helps viewers decide what to make of the "European children" living at those camps. "We can say we want them to come back, we could say no thank you. We don't want them to come back. But in order to make this decision, we have to be informed."

The Red Cross, which is making efforts to help children like Alvin, says stories like these might help start conversations with governments about repatriation.

Tomaso Della Longa from the Red Cross says that some governments have "started a discussion with us about the repatriation of other children. It is so complex that they cannot say that something will happen tomorrow. It will probably take much more time as the Middle East context is very volatile."

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