Up to 500 relatives of Afghans in State to be offered temporary residency

Cabinet also to consider changes to legislation on freedom of information

Up to 500 Afghans fleeing turmoil in the country are to be given temporary residency rights in the State, under plans going to the Government today.

The Cabinet will today consider a special-admission programme for family members of an estimated 1,200 Afghans living in Ireland which would see up to 500 of them brought to the State.

The plan is being brought jointly by Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys, Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

It is understood that under the terms of the programme, if approved by Government, the Afghan nationals can apply for temporary residency if they are in Afghanistan or a neighbouring country, having fled.

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The Government plans that the sponsoring family member in Ireland would accommodate the person seeking residency. It is believed this would mean there would not be a need for new accommodation associated with the programme.

The Department of Justice would operate the new scheme, while the Department of Children would support Afghan refugees through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, having offered refugee status to 400 Afghan citizens since the Taliban retook the country this summer.

Freedom of information

The Cabinet will also consider a plan from Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath to move forward with a review of the Freedom of Information Act, with recommendations to be delivered to the Government in the middle of next year.

Mr McGrath had signalled his plans to review the operation of the legislation, and will seek Government approval to publish a strategy to renew the system, taking in a public consultation, as well as interacting with campaigners and focus groups, starting in the autumn.

Areas expected to be included are the fee provisions – no fee attaches to such requests, following reforms in 2014 – and measures to protect against abuse of the legislation, as well as known issues with the operation of the 2014 legislation introduced by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

The Cabinet is also to consider the annual report of the anti-money-laundering and countering financing of terrorism steering committee, the appointment of the new chief justice, Donal O'Donnell, and an expenditure management report from the Department of Health.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times