North Macedonia to accept 450 Afghan refugees

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BELGRADE (Reuters) - North Macedonia will by the end of the week temporarily take in 450 Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover of their country and seeking visas to enter the United States, the Skopje government said on Tuesday.

North Macedonia is the third country in the Western Balkans, along with Albania and Kosovo, to have approved a request by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to admit Afghan refugees.

The refugees to arrive in North Macedonia will be employees and families of Afghan employees "in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, activists from rights organizations, journalists, translators, students and scholarship holders," North Macedonia's government said in a statement.

"Most of the 450 (Afghan) citizens are expected to arrive by the end of the week, depending on conditions at Kabul airport."

It said Skopje will also accept Afghans "who have been supporting NATO troops for the past 20 years, including North Macedonia's military," which contributed soldiers to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-2008.

On Sunday Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said the two countries would temporarily house a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the United States.

While in North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, Afghan refugees are to be vetted by U.S. authorities and will stay until documentation for U.S. immigration visas is arranged.

North Macedonia and Albania are members of NATO.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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