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Efforts Must be Broadened to Get Afghan Refugees Aboard Evacuation Flights: Green MEP Grace O’Sulliv

Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan, has today called on government officials to continue efforts to ensure safe passage for refugees fleeing Afghanistan, and to prioritise expanding the reach of the Refugee Programme.

The situation in Afghanistan is spiralling into a humanitarian catastrophe and I would like to see Ireland being leaders and unifiers in the EU and international efforts to come up with appropriate, effective responses.

“My team and I have been engaging with NGOs and people on the ground as stories emerge of vast numbers of people desperately trying to flee the country to safety. These are people whose prior work or activism makes them targets for Taliban brutality.

“We are hearing of countless Afghan citizens, even those with documentation, currently in hiding, unable to get through dangerous roads, with multiple Taliban checkpoints, to reach Kabul airport and get on evacuation flights. Planes are waiting for them but the window is rapidly shutting down. One of three charter evacuation planes with 345 seats departed from Kabul yesterday with only 50 passengers. It’s unforgivable in an already horrific situation. Add to this, yesterday’s reports of explosions in the vicinity of the airport and you have a chaotic, life-threatening situation.”

The MEP acknowledged the importance of evacuating Irish citizens from Afghanistan, but called on the Irish Government to broaden their priorities.

It’s understandable that, thus far, the focus has been around efforts to evacuate Irish citizens. Of course, I appreciate the very real concerns for their safety, but we must not forget those Afghan citizens on the ground who have worked with national and overseas NGOs, or national efforts in Afghanistan progressing democracy and equality over recent years. They are in fear for their own and their families’ lives and safety.

“Ireland has committed to give refuge to 150 Afghan nationals under the Refugee Protection Programme, but this is simply not enough and doesn’t honour the pledge we made when we signed up to the overarching principle of the Sustainable Development Goals to ‘Leave No One Behind.’ It’s deeply alarming that at the moment, even documented people are finding it impossible to get to the airport in Kabul, safely.”

In light of the above, along with Ireland’s position as the upcoming head of the UN Security Council and with the recent Department of Foreign Affairs delegation, including army rangers, deployment to Kabul, MEP O’Sullivan has called on government officials to keep working on arranging safe passage for those in urgent need of refuge.

She is also calling on the Government to immediately set up an Afghanistan Emergency Task Force, bringing together NGOs, humanitarian organisations, the Department of Foreign affairs and others, to urgently respond to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis, and find ways, in the short-term, to rescue and evacuate those most vulnerable and in immediate/ imminent danger and, in the longer-term, develop a strategic response to the crisis, including a concerted effort to foster international unity around establishing a humanitarian corridor for ongoing evacuations, an expansion of Ireland’s commitments around accepting Afghan refugees, a strengthening of sponsorship programmes etc.

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