Wednesday, 29 September 2021
Afghanistan Crisis: Statements
I am sharing time with Deputy Haughey. Like many colleagues, I want to express my concern around the situation in Afghanistan.
In some ways, it is hard to find the words to express that concern. It is a very serious, multifaceted and multilayered issue and there is an immediate urgency to it, but it also speaks to wider problems we face here and as part of a global community.
On the immediate urgency of the situation, although we have made commitments to take in 500 refugees from Afghanistan, the programme is due to commence in December. If this is really such an urgent situation, why is the programme not commencing sooner? We also need to consider the issue of family reunification. Obviously, Afghanistan is a community with broader family networks than perhaps may be the case currently in Ireland. We need to consider some of the arbitrary cut-offs within the family reunification programmes operating in Ireland as part of our international protection responsibilities and find ways to reflect the urgency of the situation through flexibility, expansion of these programmes and ensuring they have adequate resources to work.
It also speaks to a broader issue. We need to differentiate between the overlapping issues of peace and security. Quite often, those two words, concepts and ideas are joined together as one rather than being distinct but overlapping concepts and ideas. Ireland has had a proud role in peacekeeping through the years, particularly in the context of UN peacekeeping. I am concerned that the poor state of the manpower levels in the Defence Forces means that we are retreating from that role. I recently received a response from the Department to questions I tabled regarding our contingent in Western Sahara. The contingent comprises two commandant-level members of the Defence Forces and it is too much of a strain to be able to continue that commitment alongside the other commitments we have. It is slightly worrying that what is being said is that we do not-----