Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice if she has considered introducing a specific humanitarian programme similar to previous SHAP or International Humanitarian Access Programme to enable Afghan and Irish citizens living in Ireland to apply for visas for their family members; if so, when the arrangements will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42120/21]
936. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will put in place humanitarian admission for Afghans at high risk of persecution including persons who have worked with the EU, humanitarian organisations and women and girls at risk of persecution. [42796/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): I propose to take Questions Nos. 900 and 936 together.
In response to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, my Department is currently focused on processing applications for Afghan family members of Irish citizens and Afghan nationals living in Ireland.
In line with announced Government commitments, the admission of ‘programme refugees’ under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) is being led primarily by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth who have overall responsibility for the IRPP. My Department is providing practical support by way of issuing humanitarian visas to facilitate travel to Ireland.
Priority has been given to those working on human rights issues, including the rights of women and girls and minorities, as well as those working with NGOs and European and international organisations. To date, my Department has recently issued more than 290 humanitarian visas or visa letters for this cohort.
Under the IHAP, which has closed to new applicants, approximately 70 Afghan nationals have been issued with immigration status letters by my Department so far this year, enabling them to reside and work in the State.
One hundred and four Afghan family members have been granted family reunification so far this year under the International Protection Act 2015, and applications in respect of a further 64 people are being actively processed by my Department.
Similarly, visa applications for Afghan family members of Irish citizens and Afghan nationals living in Ireland are being assessed speedily and sympathetically. Any person that wishes to make an application for a visa to join a family member already living in Ireland, can do so online at: www.visas.inis.gov.ie/avats/OnlineHome.aspx. Eligible family members are generally dependent family including spouses, civil partners and children under the age of 18.
Anyone who wishes to apply to bring an elderly dependent to live with them in Ireland under a Stamp 0 permission can find further information on: www.irishimmigration.ie/coming-to-join-family-in-ireland/joining-a-non-eea-non-swiss-national/dependent-elderly-relative/.
My Department is currently reviewing all international protection applications on hand from Afghan nationals with a view to expediting their progress, in line with updated advices provided by UNHCR in recent weeks. These applications are already prioritised, as agreed with UNHCR. The processing of these applications takes full account of whether a person will be in danger if not provided with a permission to remain here.
My Department continues to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to monitor and respond to the evolving situation in Afghanistan. As I have outlined, our current focus is on processing all existing and new applications on hand speedily and sympathetically.
Minister Humphreys and I have directed our officials to examine, as a matter of urgency, proposals for a humanitarian admission programme whereby persons resident in Ireland could apply for family members in Afghanistan to be granted admission to Ireland. The introduction of any new scheme along similar lines to the previous SHAP and IHAP programmes would require a Government decision.