UNHCR welcomes Irish plan to reunite Afghan families

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has welcomed the Irish government’s decision to open a new humanitarian admission programme to Afghan applicants. The programme, which will operate in a similar manner to the Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme, will allow up to 500 Afghans to come to Ireland to be united with family members.

“This new programme, coming on the back of a number of other significant initiatives, is a very welcome commitment by the government of Ireland that will bring much solace to Afghans who are worried about their relatives abroad”, said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR.

“The programme will facilitate the resumption of normal family life which, in some cases, may have been disrupted by prolonged separation.  Crucially it will offer a safe and legal means of travel for people who may otherwise be forced to take dangerous journeys or put their lives in the hands of smugglers.”

UNHCR has offered to support the Department of Justice on the detailed design of the scheme. In doing so it has called on it to apply a flexible approach, in particular to eligibility and documentation requirements, which takes into account the exceptional, complex and challenging situation on the ground in Afghanistan at present.

While welcoming the announcement, UNHCR also recalled its recommendation to the government to review family reunification procedures more generally and expressed the hope that greater access will be extended to all nationalities of refugees in future.