While most other states, both in Europe and closer to Afghanistan itself, have been hastily imposing strict criteria on how many and which refugees will be admitted, there is still only a hazy understanding of what qualifies someone to be taken in by the Irish state.
As previously noted, EU member states are confining immediate protection to Afghans who were working with their own military or other institutions in Afghanistan prior to the fall of Kabul. Ireland, of course, did not have any involvement in the war against the Taliban and thus far, the Department of Foreign Affairs has referred to persons working for NGOs or with “EU institutions” and United Nations. It is not even clear where those already taken here, or are in transit have come from.
Irish NGOs have, of course, attempted to impose themselves as the national conscience on all of this, competing with politicians from every party in Leinster House. So, given that claimed expertise, what Irish NGOs have been working in Afghanistan?
Twelve NGOs, including Amnesty, Oxfam, Movement for Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI), and the Irish Refugee Council have already called for 1,000 people to be taken in, but it is not clear how many if any of them actually have people working for them in Afghanistan. It is highly unlikely that most of them do.
So how are they supposed to be able to decide who is, or is not a legitimate refugee based on the criteria being applied by most of Ireland’s fellow members of the EU? An organisation like MASI, not to mention self-styled anti-racist quangos probably know no more about Afghanistan than Jedward.
It is clear from the measures being imposed by countries such as Poland and Hungary within the EU, and Turkey, who are physically closing their borders to the expected influx, that most states are not trusting the advice of NGOs – nor the credentials of people who will use the current crisis as an opportunity to enter countries even though they are not for the most part either victims or potential victims of the Taliban.
Further confusion is added by the reference at the weekend by Minister for State in the Department of Justice, James Browne, to the planned amnesty for 17,000 illegal immigrants already in Ireland. This was proposed by Minister Helen McEntee in response to a successful Labour Party bill to undermine the current citizenship legislation.
There were no mention of Afghans at that time, but now they are conveniently being referred to as supports for an amnesty which appears to be intended to include pretty much anyone who is here and for whatever reason. The fuzziness of what is being proposed is not being made any clearer by the claim that “undocumented” sex workers here are now being thrown into the mix alongside what appear to be pretty precise figures on where the “undocumented” come from, their ages, and how many are working.
None of the politicians and others pushing the amnesty seem to be interested in how or why people ended up being undocumented, nor indeed have any referred to the fact that there has been in place for many years now a work permits scheme under which companies can apply to fill positions here with workers from outside of the EU/EEU area. Tens of thousands have come here under that scheme. Worker and more particularly employers involved in the “black economy” have chosen to flout those regulations. Now they are to be rewarded.
Meanwhile, Irish citizens remain in Afghanistan. Despite, presumably, their safety and evacuation being the priority of the authorities here. Some of those Irish citizens have been described as Afghans who were granted citizenship here but decided to return to their own country.
While there are no doubt that some people are genuinely in danger from the Taliban, past experience has proven that they are not necessarily, nor even the most likely, persons to benefit from such liberal ad hoc measures as appear to be currently in place.
There are also of course genuine concerns over who might be allowed to enter the country. In the light of considerable evidence of serious crime among existing Afghan refugee communities, and the danger that Jihadist groups will use the situation to infiltrate members, other states are keeping a careful eye on movements from the region.
The Guardian reported yesterday that six individuals attempting to enter Britain had been identified by British security as potential threats. The number of people on their “no fly” list who had been identified in the last week was as many as would normally come to notice in the course of a year. That would suggest that Islamic State is indeed attempting to take advantage of the crisis to get some of its personnel into Britain and other European countries.
Ireland has some past experience of how asylum can be manipulated, In 2006, 41 Afghans staged a hunger strike in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in an attempt to force the state to allow them to stay. None of them were facing immediate deportation, and all of them had been either granted temporary leave to stay and or were at various stages of the processing system.
Then, as now, the demands by Sinn Féin – who came close to losing its seat in Dublin South Central the following year over its naïve support for the hunger strikers – and others were initially framed around the dangers to women and girls.
That was made look pretty ludicrous by the fact that all of the hunger strikers were males under the age of 45. Far from fleeing oppression, several of them claimed that they would be in danger as former Taliban fighters if they were deported – while one “told the authorities here that he raped and killed when he was a member of the Taliban senior command.” That was his reason of being fearful of returning to Afghanistan.
Careful processing of who enters the country is therefore clearly very important. It ought not be something that is framed by NGOs with clear organisational and ideological motivations in allowing as many people as they can to come here, without very much of any kind of checking being done.