Immigrant Council welcomes announcement of Afghanistan Humanitarian Assistance Programme
The Afghanistan Humanitarian Assistance Programme (AHAP) is a “welcome relief to Ireland’s Afghan community”. That’s according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, reacting to details of the programme, announced today (14 December 2021), by the Department of Justice.
The new refugee admission scheme will open on 16th December with 500 spaces available for family members of Afghan nationals based in Ireland.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland welcomed the announcement, citing hundreds of queries to its information services since August from concerned Afghan nationals residing in Ireland, desperate for options to bring family members to the country, following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Commenting today, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Brian Killoran said:
“Like everyone across Ireland and the world, we here at the Immigrant Council of Ireland have watched helplessly in horror at the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Afghanistan this year, and we have stood in solidarity with our sisters and brothers facing such uncertainty and trepidation.
“We are relieved that the Irish Government is acting on the overwhelmingly supportive sentiment of the Irish people to want to help, by opening up this humanitarian scheme. We sympathise with Ireland’s Afghan community who are desperate to reunite with family members stranded back home, living in potentially dangerous conditions. At this time of year particularly, the importance of being with our loved ones and feeling safe and secure is a sentiment shared by us all, regardless of where we come from.”
Concerns about the programme
The Council also raised a number of areas of concern, that may present challenges to applicants of the scheme.
“In order for our Afghan sisters and brothers to be reunited with their loved ones, we are calling on the Department of Justice to consider expanding the scheme beyond the proposed 500 places, as well as broadening the eligibility to include family sub-groups such as siblings and extended family – as is the norm within Afghan culture.
“We are also stating our concerns echoed by other migrant rights groups today at the difficulties for Afghanistan-based individuals to not only access identity documents like passports, but also to safely post these documents to Ireland. For months there has been little to no reliable postal service within Afghanistan due to the breakdown of the previous regime’s infrastructure. It’s not realistic to expect displaced and potentially terrorised refugees to be able to provide these required documents.
“Similarly, we call on the Government to provide Irish travel documents to those individuals who are successful with their applications, to enable safe transit to Ireland from Afghanistan. Without these documents, many beneficiaries will be unable to leave the country.”
Reduced capacity during Christmas period
The information and legal team at the Immigrant Council will continue to provide free information and support to Afghan nationals based in Ireland seeking to reunite with family members as part of the scheme, as will many civil society based support services across Ireland. However, the capacity of civil society to meet the needs of the Afghan community impacted by this scheme is limited, especially as the scheme is open for a short time and over the holiday period, when many organisations’ services will not be operating.
Commenting today, Managing Solicitor at the Immigrant Council, Catherine Cosgrave said:
“We are concerned that the closure of services, not just of the Immigrant Council’s helpline over the holiday season but also of other legal and immigration support services, will leave a lot of Afghan families without assistance until January when services resume.
“The Immigrant Council’s Independent Law Centre will be prioritising assistance to Afghan nationals needing help with their family reunification applications. Given that the scheme will not have an online application form, we anticipate a lot of assistance being required in completing the application process, with clients trying to navigate the process with varying levels of English.
“We ask for patience and understanding from our other clients who may be trying to ring our helpline during this busy time while we focus our service provision on this specific issue, given the short window of opportunity that Afghans have to apply.
“Rest assured once the admissions scheme is underway our normal services will resume, including providing assistance for the upcoming Undocumented Regularisation Scheme and other immigration matters that require our support.”
The Immigrant Council of Ireland Helpline can be contacted by phone on 01-674-0200 with the following opening hours:
|Wednesday, 15 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm|
|Thursday, 16 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm|
|Friday, 17 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm|
|Monday, 20 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm|
|Tuesday, 21 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm|
|Wednesday, 22 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm|
|Thursday, 23 December 2021||Open 10am-1pm|
|Friday, 24 December to Monday 3 January 2022||CLOSED|
|Tuesday, 4 January 2022||Open 10am-1pm|