Afghans still waiting for decision on relatives year after State pledge

Afghan Admission Programme promised ‘up to 500 places’ for at-risk family members but some applicants claim relatives already kidnapped by Taliban

A year on from the Government’s promise to offer temporary residence to Afghans who have relatives in Ireland, no final decision has been issued and some applicants have claimed their family members have already been kidnapped by the Taliban.

In response to the Taliban takeover last August, the Department of Justice said Afghans already living in Ireland could apply for permission for up to four beneficiaries to join them in Ireland under the new Afghan Admission Programme (AAP). The programme promised to provide “up to 500 places” for at-risk family members.

However, 12 months after the programme was announced, and six months after the application deadline, no final decisions have been issued.

An Afghan man living in Ireland since 2019, who did not want to be named for fear of security issues for his family back home, applied for his parents to join him.


Speaking to The Irish Times, the man said he “worried a lot” for his mother and father, who he had not been able to see “in years”.

“They’re older and retired so I’m trying to work a lot and save up to be able to support them if they get accepted to come here but it’s getting longer and longer. I don’t know if I will ever get to see them. We talk by phone but I worry for their safety all the time,” he said.

‘No action’

“Every week I open the Government website to see if there’s any news, and still no action has been taken. It feels like they’re ignoring the programme and the people who are impacted. It’s not a huge obligation, it’s only 500 people. There’s more flexibility and better treatment for Ukrainians, but every human life matters. It’s unfair.”

The Department of Justice said a total of 528 applications had been received under the programme, which “continue to be assessed in a pragmatic and humanitarian manner with a view to issuing decisions as soon as possible”.

Separately, since the beginning of August 2021 to July 2022, a total of 135 join-family visas have been approved for Afghan nationals and 77 family reunification applications have been approved.

A number of Afghan people have also been allocated places under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), which is under the remit of the Department of Children, Equality. Disability, Integration and Youth.

While these visa waivers were welcomed by human rights organisations, the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) told The Irish Times it “remains concerned” about the delays in issuing final decisions under the AAP.

The IRC assisted 70 people in applying for the programme, some of whom have progressed to “second stage” in recent weeks, but there has been “no confirmation of numbers or date of final decisions”.

‘Taliban reprisals’

“We welcome any progress in processing applications, but it is simply too slow,” a spokeswoman said.

The programme was the only dedicated option for Afghans in Ireland, many of whom are long established here and some of whom are themselves Irish citizens, to apply for at-risk family members to join them.

Since last September, some family members of the IRC’s clients “have been kidnapped, or have simply disappeared, with some going ‘underground’ or smuggled out of Afghanistan for fear of Taliban reprisals”, including minor children and unaccompanied women.

The scheme was “already extremely limited in scope”, with sponsors unable to apply for intact family units and if an applicant wished for a widowed family member to join them, death certificates were required.

“Owing to the collapse of the normal state infrastructure and risk of identification by the Taliban, it was very difficult to get all original documents,” the IRC said.

Pre-screening was also required, with applicants asked to provide proof of ability to financially support and accommodate their family by themselves.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland was also “severely concerned at the delays”, chief executive Brian Killoran said.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times