Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Afghanistan Crisis: Statements


6:02 pm

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I compliment the Minister on the leadership he has shown during this awful situation and humanitarian crisis. He has shown great leadership in enabling the citizens of Afghanistan who live in fear and are traumatised to see a pathway out. It was lovely to hear the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, talking about the various programmes. He ultimately talked about 1,200 people being able to see a pathway into this country. Deputy Higgins is right that the Irish nation has thrown its arms open wide. We have said we are here, prepared and willing to do what we can to help and assist. That is the nature of the Irish people. The Minister is leading that campaign and I compliment him. That is important.

Ireland's approach to Afghanistan has been consistently clear. We have called for an end to the violence, for negotiations between all parties to reach a negotiated political settlement, and for the Taliban to work with others to build a peaceful and inclusive transition government that serves all Afghans. Of course, we have seen something very different in the weeks since the Taliban took over the country in terms of its attitude to families, women, children and those who worked for the former government. It has not built confidence in any of us who are watching.

The Afghan Administration must protect civilians and fulfil Afghanistan's obligations under international law. Human rights, especially for Afghan women, children and minorities, must be respected, protected and upheld. Afghanistan must never again become a haven for international terrorism. I again make the point that I truly fear for what is ahead for the people of Afghanistan. I do not see a bright future at the moment. All foreign nationals and those Afghans who wish to leave Afghanistan, including those who want to come to Ireland to be offered resettlement, should not be hindered in any way in doing so. The Taliban must guarantee safe access for humanitarian aid and those providing vital and life-saving assistance to the Afghan people. These are the principles that are guiding Ireland on Afghanistan during our Presidency of the Security Council. The Security Council adopted Resolution 2593 which reaffirms the importance of human rights, humanitarian assistance and the need to allow safe passage. Ireland will be very involved, and was very involved, in drafting the resolution.

At an international level, Ireland is working to address a range of issues, especially through our role as President of the UN Security Council.

When the Minister chaired the meeting of the Security Council on 9 September, he highlighted the need for an inclusive and negotiated peace settlement, for the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and children, to be protected and promoted and for the Taliban to fulfil its commitment to allow the safe, secure, orderly and unhindered departure of foreign nationals and Afghans at risk. The Minister has urged the Taliban to facilitate full and safe humanitarian access to allow lifesaving support to reach Afghans. He also recently approved the provision of an additional €1 million in humanitarian support through the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It is incumbent on us to compliment the Minister for the work he has done so far.

The Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, talked about significant numbers of people making their way to this country. I welcome yesterday's approval for the establishment of the Afghan admission programme. Like many of my colleagues around the House tonight, I will make the point that it would be truly heartbreaking and devastating for families with more than four members to have to choose which four will come to this country. Words cannot describe what it must be like for them. In light of the importance of family reunification and how difficult it can be, this should be revisited, if there is any way to do so, and we should ensure that families are not separated, adding further trauma. That is of great importance.

Yesterday, we saw the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development aid and the diaspora announce an additional €2 million in Irish Aid support for people in Afghanistan who are experiencing severe humanitarian crises. There is a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and it is deeply concerning. The country is facing a deadly combination of conflict, disease, drought and hunger. More than 18 million people, almost half the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. One in three Afghans is facing crisis levels of food insecurity and more than half of children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition. These are stark realities for people and I urge the Minister to continue doing what he is doing, to ensure pathways are created for people and to do all he can to ensure that women, children and minority groups are protected.


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