695. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice the assistance that can be provided in the case of persons (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50729/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Ireland has acted swiftly and compassionately to demonstrate our support and solidarity with the Afghan people. My Department is working closely with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to ensure a coordinated national response.
This includes opening the Irish Refugee Protection Programme under Minister O'Gorman's remit to Afghan persons in need of protection and working to ensure that applications received from Afghan nationals under the various State schemes for immigration residence and international protection can be prioritised for speedier processing where possible. These schemes provide avenues for Afghan nationals to seek protection and for eligible family members living in Ireland to seek to have their close family members granted permission to reside in Ireland, where the relevant criteria are met. More than 740 Afghan nationals have already been granted permissions to reside in the State so far this year.
The Government has approved an additional initiative: the special Afghan Admission Programme, which will provide places for up to 500 Afghan family members. Each applicant will have an opportunity to nominate up to four family members who are currently residing in Afghanistan or who have fled to neighbouring territories and whom they consider would be especially at risk in terms of their freedom and safety.
The Programme, including the detailed eligibility criteria and the application process, will be developed over the coming months, with a view to issuing a call for applications in December. Further details will be made available on the Irish Immigration website (www.irishimmigration.ie) at the appropriate time.
In the meantime, all current immigration avenues remain open for new applications, including visa and family reunification applications. My Department will process any new applications received speedily and sympathetically. Further information can be found at: https://www.irishimmigration.ie/immigration-notice-on-the-humanitarian-situation-in-afghanistan/.