Republic working hard to evacuate citizens from Afghanistan

Irish officials attempting to book space on military transports of other countries

Irish officials are trying to “book space” on the military transports of other countries to ensure the evacuation of Irish citizens in Afghanistan.

It is hoped that the small number of Irish citizens who wish to leave the country will be able to do so in the coming days, but the evacuation and transport to Ireland of Afghan refugees is expected to take longer, with many expected to make their way out of the country through Pakistan.

Officials cited the chaos in Kabul, explaining the difficulty in getting a clear picture of what was happening on the ground there. However, they expressed confidence that the extraction of Irish citizens would happen relatively soon, and said they were in contact with other EU countries, the US and the UK in a bid to secure flights out of the beleaguered city.

All the Irish citizens continue to be in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs, though officials did not say if any were waiting inside the airport in Kabul. “There isn’t a single location where they are all waiting,” said one official.

US soldiers restored order at the airport on Monday, but it was unclear if Taliban fighters in Kabul were allowing people to make it to the airport from the city. It is understood that some of the Irish citizens are in other parts of Afghanistan. Some will “make their own way out”, said officials.

Afghan refugees

Military flights from the airport were reported to have recommenced earlier this morning after US troops cleared the runways of Afghans desperate to board flights. But Irish officials said the situation at the airport remained uncertain. Repatriating Irish citizens is priority for the Government while the transfer of up to 150 Afghan refugees is likely to be “a more drawn out process”, said an official.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been in touch with non-governmental organisations and in-country agencies to draw up the list of those approved for admission to Ireland. Earlier today, Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman told RTÉ: “We have a list of criteria focused on those working with vulnerable groups and human rights defenders.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times