Two more Irish citizens evacuated from Afghanistan, window of opportunity 'closing' says Coveney

ireland
Two More Irish Citizens Evacuated From Afghanistan, Window Of Opportunity 'Closing' Says Coveney
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the priority was to get Irish citizens out of Afghanistan and to then be "as generous as we possibly can" regarding refugees.
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Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Two more Irish citizens have been evacuated from Afghanistan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has confirmed.

This means eight Irish citizens have now left the country since the Taliban took control, but another 34 remain – 23 adults and 11 dependants.

Mr Coveney said the situation at Kabul Airport continues to be volatile and encouraged Irish citizens not to travel there unless advised to by the Irish embassy.

He told RTÉ’s This Week programme: “We have 34 Irish citizens remaining to be evacuated, 23 of them are adults and 11 are dependants.

 

“There are now eight Irish citizens who have got out on various different flights and the remaining 34 are a mixture of Irish-only citizens who are largely working with NGOs or the UN and then a number of Afghan-Irish citizens, who are Irish citizens but originally from Afghanistan who have returned to visit family.

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“We are fully committed to all 34; we are staying in close contact with them through the embassy in Abu Dhabi. They are getting regular updates in terms of advice because it is a very difficult and fluid situation.”

Mr Coveney added: “The situation at the airport yesterday was really chaotic and on the outskirts of the airport it was very tragic – a number of people were killed in crowds being crushed.

“The advice to citizens is to listen to the advice they are getting from our embassy team and not to travel to the airport without instruction or advice to do that.

“This is a very difficult and complicated situation for all of the countries that are present in Kabul Airport trying to get their citizens out.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the situation in Afghanistan remains volatile (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

“We are working with many of them to try to get Irish citizens on planes that are leaving, but for most of yesterday no planes were landing or taking off and no people were able to get into the airport on foot.

“That is currently the situation as of this morning; that may change and we need to be ready to take advantage of an opportunity should it arise to get people out.”

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The minister conceded the window of opportunity to get the remaining citizens out of the country is closing.

“The UK and the US will make their own decisions, but they have been also very helpful in terms of co-operating with us, as indeed have been the French and the Germans,” he said.

“Some of the Irish citizens who have got out in the last 48 hours were on a plane organised by Germany.

“We are working with all of those countries but of course they have their own decisions to make and they have many more citizens than we have in Afghanistan.

“Of course this is a window which is closing and that is why we want to be sure that we can take advantage of any window of opportunity that is available in the coming days to get Irish people and in some cases, their dependants out.

 

“Of course there is a concern about safety – that is why they want to leave – and no-one really knows what is going to happen in Afghanistan.

“We have seen propaganda from [the Taliban leadership] in the last number of days saying that things will be fine and there is nothing to fear; we have also heard of lots of examples of Taliban inspections in people’s homes, burning of passports, and intimidation. This is a very volatile and concerning situation.”

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Mr Coveney said there have been meetings between the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence, assessing the risk in Afghanistan.

“It’s very clear that we would like to welcome Afghan citizens that are at risk in their own country to Ireland, particularly if their family is already here,” he said. “It’s another thing actually facilitating their evacuation and getting them out in the coming days – that’s a real challenge.

“The priority has to be to get Irish citizens out, first and foremost, and then to be as generous as we possibly can in terms of our refugee settlement programme and also family reunification, and we will be generous on both of those accounts.”

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