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Tuesday 28 March 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Bernat Armangue
# the good information project
Ireland has now offered humanitarian access visas to 400 Afghans
Women, human-rights activists, members of LGBTQI+ community and journalists are among those offered these places.

IRELAND HAS OFFERED humanitarian-access places to 400 Afghanistan citizens since July, meaning they will be granted asylum if they arrive in Ireland.

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth said in a statement to The Journal that the 400 Afghan people have been offered humanitarian access to Ireland through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

Only a small number of those who have been offered protection have arrived in Ireland.

Those working in frontline work, non-governmental bodies, human rights activists, women, members of LGBTQI+ community and journalists, among others from Afghanistan, have been offered these places.

Fiona Finn, CEO of the Cork-based immigration support centre Nasc, said that although getting here would be “very difficult” for some of this cohort, those who have been offered humanitarian access should be granted refugee status upon arrival.

“There seems to be an openness to accept more refugees if capacity can be found within the system,” she told The Journal.

Department staff are now working to assist with the arrival of refugees and to facilitate their integration in Ireland.

There is no quota from the EU on how many Afghan refugees it should accept in response to the crisis, with member states split on how to respond – some say they will admit no Afghan refugees. The Turkish government, in response, has urged Europe to take responsibility for migrants, saying it would not be “Europe’s migrant storage unit”.

Finn says that despite this, Ireland’s response so far to the Afghanistan crisis has been “positive”, “quite swift”, and “fairly proactive”, though numbers so far have been low.

You have the issuing of humanitarian visas, and those numbers are kind of creeping up. So there is an openness to increase the number of people that are going to be granted humanitarian visas, and also, looking at how we can bring in family members of Afghans who are living in Ireland.

By contrast, she says that the EU’s response has been “quite negative” and “disappointing”.

“Apart from helping that Afghan nationals who have had an engagement with the EU programme in Afghanistan, there seems to be very little appetite to admit large numbers of Afghan refugees.

The rhetoric coming from the EU is they’re looking to put their resources into surrounding countries. So I think the hope from the EU is that people will not move, or migrate to Europe.

Forty-five humanitarian visas were issued by Ireland to Afghan citizens in the first few weeks of the crisis in Afghanistan. In mid August, the Government announced a further 150 visas would be issued.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said at the time that he expected “a lot more” refugees to be taken in over the coming weeks and months. 

The has reported that Coveney’s department is also examining proposals for a “humanitarian admission programme” in which people resident in Ireland could apply for family members in Afghanistan to be granted permission to come here.

Coveney also said that Afghans from human-rights organisations, from the media, women and girls, as well as family members of Afghan nationals who are living in Ireland would be prioritised for refugee status. 

daily-life-in-kabul DPA / PA Images An Afghan woman peeks out a beauty parlour where the outside advertisement is defaced. DPA / PA Images / PA Images

On 24 August, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said that 230 Afghan citizens have been issued with refugee status. This number has now increased to 400.

A poll carried out by Ireland Thinks in the past week on behalf of The Journal indicated that 34% of Irish people want to take in between 230-1,000 Afghan refugees; 27% said 230 is about the right number; and 19% said we should take over 1,000.

The same proportion of respondents said we should take less than 230 (8%), or none (8%).

The Department also added that the IRPP is conscious of “existing commitments” to vulnerable refugee populations including Syrians living in Lebanon and Jordan.

“A team from IRPP and An Garda Síochána is currently interviewing Syrians in Beirut as part of an Irish Government pledge to bring 2,900 refugees to Ireland for resettlement by end of 2023. In September, a group of 50 refugees arrived in Ireland from Greece following the fire at the Moria camp,” it said.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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