Immigrant Council calls for clarity on Afghan admissions programme
The Immigrant Council of Ireland has joined calls on the government to provide clarity to those who applied for the Afghan admissions programme and have not yet received a decision.
Only a small number of approvals have been issued under the Afghan admission programme despite 528 applications being submitted when the scheme was accepting applications between December 2021 and March 2022.
The programme, set up in the aftermath of the Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan, allows Afghan nationals living in Ireland to bring close family members to live with them.
Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council, said: “When the Afghan admissions programme was first announced, the Immigrant Council welcomed the scheme. We were receiving a significant number of queries to our services from Afghan nationals living in Ireland, who were extremely worried about their families’ well-being in Afghanistan, and they needed options.
“However, as the months have passed, and the closing date for applications has come and gone, we are very concerned for these families. Government has indicated that applications are progressing, and while we have heard in recent weeks that a handful of cases have finally received a decision, which is very welcome, the vast majority however, are still in limbo waiting for clarity on their situations.
“The delay in processing applications causes multiple problems for those who are waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. Afghanistan-based individuals have been without identity documents like passports for months now, preventing them from travelling anywhere else.
“The human rights situation is worsening by the day, leaving Afghans in Ireland extremely worried for their families’ well-being and safety. We understand the process may take time, but these families deserve clarity on exactly how long they may have to wait.”
He added: “We initially raised concerns in December 2021 about the backlog in our international protection system, which takes over two years for applicants to receive a first-instance decision, and we now have similar concerns for Afghan families awaiting reunification.
“It is understandable that the war in Ukraine and Ireland’s humanitarian response may have impacted the decision-making timeline within the Department, but these families are also fleeing war. The Department advised to expect an indicative decision timeline by mid-March, which has come and gone. An update for all applicants is needed urgently, and we are calling on the government to take action immediately.”
Catherine Cosgrave, managing solicitor at the Immigrant Council, added: “Another key issue for these applicants at the moment is the fact that the passport office in Afghanistan is closed since the beginning of October, and it is unknown how long it will remain closed.
“This means that – for individuals who may need to get passports before travelling – there will be a time lag before they can realistically join family, which is concerning given the passage of time to date, and the fact that vulnerable family members were being prioritised for entry.”