Irish citizens seeking exit from Afghanistan spread across Kabul and elsewhere

Coveney says Government working with EU and UK to secure places on military flights

People hug as evacuees  arrive at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Armando Babani/AFP via Getty Images

People hug as evacuees arrive at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany on Wednesday morning. Photograph: Armando Babani/AFP via Getty Images

 

The 33 Irish citizens seeking exit from Afghanistan are spread across Kabul and other parts of the country.

They are not all waiting for flights at the capital’s airport.

An unknown proportion of those are likely to be Afghans who received Irish citizenship and subsequently travelled back to their home country in the period before the Taliban’s takeover.

A source familiar with operations on the ground said flights out of Kabul are being coordinated by the US military who will ultimately decide who leaves and when.

While contact is being maintained with Irish citizens, specifically via embassy staff in Abu Dhabi, communications in the country are said to be sporadic and channels are often pursued through agencies such as the Red Crescent.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed the number of Irish passport holders in Afghanistan waiting to get home had risen to 33: 25 adults and eight dependents.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said the Government was working closely with its EU partners and the UK to secure places for them on military flights once Kabul airport was secured.

“People will not be left behind,” Mr Coveney said.

It could take a few days for the 33, some of whom have dual nationality, to get out as the situation at the airport remained chaotic, he said.

The process of getting them out was underway and Ireland was relying on the US for safe passage for them through Kabul airport.

Mr Coveney said he was confident that they would get out “so long as the airport is secured”, but it was a fluid situation.

The emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday involved “a very good discussion” with European countries agreeing to join together to ensure that all EU citizens could get out of Afghanistan.

Some countries had better resources than Ireland so it made sense to avail of them, he said.

Ireland does not have a diplomatic or consular presence on the ground in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said its embassy in Abu Dhabi was in “direct and ongoing contact” with those Irish citizens in Afghanistan who “are known to us - or, in a small number of cases, with the organisations with which they work.

“We are continuing to work closely with other EU member states and other partners, most of whom also have citizens in the country, with regards to options for repatriation flights. The situation remains fluid.”

A spokeswoman did not comment on the locations of Irish citizens, either within Kabul or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Independent TD and former Army Ranger, Cathal Berry has called on Ireland to deploy special forces to Kabul airport to coordinate the extraction of Irish citizens.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today show, he said up to 12 members of the Army Ranger wing could be sent without requiring the resolution of the Dáil. “They could be there within 24 hours,” he added.

Dr Berry said it was very important for all nations to facilitate the exit of their citizens, they needed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

He suggested the Rangers could embed with UK forces, as they have done in the past on other missions. At present there were members of the Ranger wing in Mali, embedded with German troops on a similar mission.

“Their job is to protect Irish citizens, at home and abroad.”