Ireland to provide fewer than 200 places for Afghan refugees

Government hopes to find capacity for more refugees as situation in Kabul worsens

The Government will provide fewer than 200 places for Afghan refugees but hopes to find capacity for more as the situation in Kabul worsens.

In recent days 45 visas have been approved for Afghan refugees and the Government announced last night that it would provide a further 150 places. However, sources said there was desire in Government to expand an Afghan refugee programme further if capacity could be found.

It is understood that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) may be asked to help find extra spaces for refugees as part of attempts to scale up capacity in Ireland’s international protection system.

Officials from three Government departments met on Monday afternoon to discuss capacity in the system.


Under the plans announced last night humanitarian visas will be processed for a further approximately 150 Afghan people, including those who have worked for the EU in Afghanistan and family members of Irish citizens.

Sources say it is hoped many more can be facilitated, but the existing system will need to expand beyond its capacity.

NGOs are likely to be asked to list any available accommodation they may have. An expedited process will also be put in place upon the arrival of the citizens who will be granted refugee status on humanitarian grounds.

Officials also said there would be no deportation of people from Afghanistan who have been refused refugee status.

The Department of Justice is managing documentation while the Department of Children has responsibility for the international protection system.

The Government is also examining putting in place a community sponsorship programme which would involve local groups providing supports such as housing and helping refugees access State services.

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said all parties, including the Taliban, must respect international humanitarian law.

“The international community must play its full part in providing humanitarian aid and facilitating refugees. Ireland will participate fully in these efforts,” he said.

On Monday night Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Ireland would work with other EU countries to address the crisis and officials confirmed they were seeking places on other countries’ military flights to extract Irish citizens.

Mr Coveney will attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the crisis on Tuesday.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council in New York, Ireland’s UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason said she wished to address the women of Afghanistan directly.

“Women of Afghanistan, we hear you and we hear your pleas to the international community at this time,” she said.

She said that their sense of betrayal was “understood . . . it is righteous”.

“I call on this council to stand for the women of Afghanistan. Their rights and their future participation in Afghan society cannot be sacrificed. This is our shared responsibility at this table,” said Ms Byrne-Nason.

A Department of Justice spokesman said it was processing applications for 103 Afghan family members to be reunited with loved ones in Ireland. These applications are “being prioritised and will now be fast-tracked to completion in the coming days, with full consideration given to the current humanitarian context”, the spokesman told the Irish Times.

“Similarly, visa applications for Afghan family members of Irish citizens and Afghan nationals living in Ireland are being assessed speedily and sympathetically,” he added.

More than 250 Afghan women and men have applied for international protection in Ireland since the start of 2019, according to data released by the Department of Justice. These include 112 asylum applications submitted in 2019, 72 made in 2020 and 70 made during the first six months of 2021.

As of Sunday, 217 Afghan nationals are accommodated by the International Protection Accommodation Service, which oversees the direct provision system, of which 46 are in emergency accommodation.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast