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File image of the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo

Department of Foreign Affairs assists 57 Irish citizens and dependents in leaving Gaza to date

The Department also worked to secure the release of nine-year-old Emily Hand who was held hostage by Hamas.

THE DEPARTMENT of foreign affairs has assisted 57 Irish citizens and their dependents in leaving Gaza to date since 7 October.

Since the Hamas attacks of 7 October, a dedicated crisis team within the DFA with officers in Dublin, the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv, Ramallah in the West Bank, and the Egyptian capital Cairo have been responding to the ongoing conflict.

The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened on 1 November to allow foreigners and dual nationals to flee the besieged region.

It was the first time Egypt had opened the Rafah crossing since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on 7 October.

It wasn’t until two weeks later, on 15 November, when the first group of Irish citizens and their dependents were able to leave Gaza.

Speaking at the time, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there was no indication that Ireland was penalised in the evacuations for its stance on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement today upon the release of the 2023 Consular Assistance Overview, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it continues to advise against all travel to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and to Lebanon.

As well as assisting 57 citizens and dependents to leave Gaza to date, the Department also worked to secure the release of nine-year-old Emily Hand.

Emily had been on a sleepover in the Kibbutz Be’eri where she lived, when it was raided by Hamas.

Her father, originally from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, was initially told she had died in the attack.

Upon her release, President Michael D Higgins said he hopes Emily can now “despite all that she has endured, enjoy a happy and fulfilling life”.

Higgins noted that the release of Emily to her family had been a priority of the Government in their diplomatic efforts, adding that he thought it was important to recognise the work of the team.

In all, the Department provided consular assistance to 2,043 new cases so far this year.

This included work in April following the outbreak of conflict in Sudan.

A dedicated crisis team based in Dublin and the Irish Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was established within the Department.

This team facilitated the evacuation of over 280 Irish citizens and dependents from Sudan between 15 April and 25 May.

Excluding crises related cases in Sudan and the Middle East, this year has seen a 13% increase in newly-recorded consular cases.

Meanwhile, the Department noted that a number of citizens continue to enter Ukraine.

A spokesperson said: “The situation across Ukraine remains extremely dangerous, the Department strongly advises against all travel to Ukraine, for any purpose.

“The capacity of the Department to provide consular assistance in Ukraine is extremely limited.”

There was also a 12% year-on-year increase in deaths of Irish citizens abroad notified to the Department, with 381 to date – more than one-in-five of all new consular cases in 2023 related to the death of an Irish citizen overseas.

The Department was also notified of the deaths of a number of Irish citizens as a result of medical and/or cosmetic procedures abroad.

Commenting on the Consular Assistance Overview, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the “statistics show a consistently high level of demand for our services”.

He added that in response to the increasing demand for consular assistance, the Department has launched an updated Consular Assistance Charter, which he said “sets out clearly the support the Department can and cannot provide”.

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