Government prepares scheme to admit up to 500 more Afghan refugees

Kabul airport evacuations restart following bombings despite fear of further attacks

Five-month-old Aqsa is carried by her father as her family arrives at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Photograph:  Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Five-month-old Aqsa is carried by her father as her family arrives at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

 

Evacuations resumed at Kabul airport on Friday despite fears of further attacks by Islamist militants as the US and its allies raced to complete the withdrawal of their forces ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline, and as fears of a refugee crisis in the region grow.

Islamic State (also known as Isis) claimed responsibility for the attacks on Thursday which killed 13 US soldiers and scores of Afghans, with local reports differing on the number of casualties.

Isis said one of its suicide bombers had targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”. The Pentagon said there were still “specific, credible” threats against the airport.

About 12,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan on Thursday, the White House said.

But there were signs of an emerging refugee crisis as Afghans, fearful of the incoming Taliban regime, flocked to leave the country.

Pakistan border

Pakistani officials told Reuters that security forces had opened fire on a group of people trying to illegally enter Pakistan, adding that two Afghans were killed and two others wounded.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that up to half a million Afghans could flee their homeland by the year’s end, and appealed to all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open.

There are also growing worries Afghans will face a humanitarian emergency with shortages of food and medical supplies looming. Medical supplies would run out within days, the World Health Organisation said on Friday, adding that it hoped to establish an air bridge into the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Meanwhile, the Government is preparing a new humanitarian programme to admit up to 500 more Afghan refugees as the situation in the war-torn country deteriorates.

Family accommodation

The junior minister responsible for immigration, James Browne, and Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys have asked officials to work on the new programme, which will be similar to the scheme to admit Syrian refugees after that country’s civil war.

However, it is likely to be directed in the first instance at the family members of Afghans already in Ireland, and who have already made their way out of Afghanistan. It is understood that, under the terms of the new scheme, likely to be presented to the Cabinet in the coming weeks, Afghans resident in Ireland will be able to apply on behalf of close family members, who they would agree to accommodate.

This means that no new accommodation provision will be needed for the scheme, allowing to it commence in the near future.

The numbers covered by the proposed new programme are likely to be 400-500, it is understood, with the possibility of increasing later. The scheme would initially grant Irish residence for a period of two years.– Additional reporting Reuters