Some 85 Irish citizens, residents and dependents may seek to leave Afghanistan

Government made aware of 10 more people seeking assistance in recent weeks

A Taliban fighter stands guard as a Pakistan International Airlines plane, the first commercial international flight to land since the Taliban retook power last month, takes off with passengers onboard at the airport in Kabul on September 13th. Photograph:  Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A Taliban fighter stands guard as a Pakistan International Airlines plane, the first commercial international flight to land since the Taliban retook power last month, takes off with passengers onboard at the airport in Kabul on September 13th. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

 

The number of Irish citizens, residents and their family members who may require evacuation from Afghanistan has risen to about 85.

The Irish Government has been made aware of approximately 10 more people seeking assistance in recent weeks, following the fall of the country to the Taliban a month ago.

The ten additional people are understood to be dependents of dual Irish/Afghan citizens in the country, rather than citizens themselves.

Sources said these figures are changing regularly as people make decisions on how safe they will be under Taliban rule but that the officials are eager to assist as many dependents as possible who seek help.

Currently, there are approximately 70 Irish citizens and dependants still in Afghanistan, the majority of who have expressed a desire to leave the country.There is understood to be another approximately 15 Afghan citizens with Irish residency rights seeking to leave.

In addition, there is a handful of Irish born citizens in the country who have said they are happy to remain there for the time being. These are employed with NGOs which have their own exit strategies should they be required, although they may still avail of Department of Foreign Affairs assistance if they wish.

“The precise number of Irish citizens and their immediate family members requiring ongoing Irish consular assistance in Afghanistan is fluid,” the Department said.

The Irish Government has not managed to evacuate any more citizens since an Emergency Consular Assistance Team (Ecat), comprising diplomats and Army Ranger Wing personnel, completed its mission to Kabul International Airport on August 26th. The mission resulted in the successful evacuation of 26 citizens and dependents.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said it will “continue its focus on providing assistance and support in the period ahead.”

He said the Department is liaising with partners, including those who have a presence on the ground, “to explore safe options for exit in the period ahead.”

A small number of commercial flights have resumed from Kabul in recent days but seats remain extremely limited.

The airport is still badly damaged following the chaotic final withdrawal of US forces at the end of last month. The Taliban is attempting to get the airport operating again with assistance from other countries such as Qatar and Turkey.

It is understood some Irish citizens have suggested leaving the country via land routes but have been discouraged by Department officials due to the dire security situation in the country.

Separately, the Government has granted 330 Afghans permission to come to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, with priority given to those working on human rights issues, a Government official said.

There are also plans to permit another 500 Afghans entry to the country in the coming months under a separate humanitarian scheme.

Since taking control of the country, the Taliban has promised to respect human rights, including those of women. However there have been widespread reports of atrocities committed by the group since.

“Afghan families in Ireland are terrified for their families’ safety. We’re hearing of incidents in the past three weeks of punishment beatings, property confiscation, disappearances and tragically a number of deaths,” said Fiona Finn of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, which has called for the Government to admit more refugees.