'Heartbreaking': Afghan asylum seekers living in Ireland feel 'powerless' to help their families

'Heartbreaking': Afghan asylum seekers living in Ireland feel 'powerless' to help their families

Waheed Talwar, an Afghan asylum seeker living in Cork.

Afghan asylum seekers in Ireland say they feel "powerless" to help their families back home and that their pleas to speed up their asylum applications and bring their families here to safety are being ignored. 

Many now fear for the lives of their loved ones, especially their female relatives, as the Taliban tighten their grip on power. 

One applicant living in direct provision says he fears if the asylum process is not fast-tracked, his relatives will end up dead.

"We didn’t believe that the Taliban were going to take over the country, even my family fled to Kabul as we believed it wasn’t possible for the Taliban to take over the capital. 

"Now they took over every part of the country," said Waheed Talwar, an Afghan asylum seeker living in Cork.

"Do you know how the pandemic was here and everyone was stocking food? This is the situation right now back home. I am worried about my wife and kids and my family," Talwar said.

Emal Fiza, another asylum seeker from Afghanistan, told the Irish Examiner that his mother and two sisters were in Kunduz city - 335km from the capital Kabul - and fled to Kabul once the Taliban took over Kunduz.

"We didn’t expect it would be that fast that the Afghan military and the foreign forces would leave the capital so fast, now the Taliban even controls the capital," Emal said.

Emal lives in Central Dublin hotel DP and has been an asylum seeker in Ireland since 2018. 

He has not done his first asylum interview yet. He works in the tech industry and studies at Dublin City University.

"What’s happening in my country is heartbreaking, I am afraid about my two sisters and if anything happened to them by the Taliban I would blame only myself because I can’t help to secure them."

Emal Fiza, an Afgan ayslum seeker living in Dublin.
Emal Fiza, an Afgan ayslum seeker living in Dublin.

"As soon as the Taliban took over Kunduz we were afraid that we would have to give my sisters’ names as in each area all families have to give the names of their single girls aged over 12 or widowed women to the Taliban’s commander of the area so they would marry them, and this is the only thing I am thinking about and I am afraid of," he said.

Waleed Talwar came to Ireland to seek asylum in January 2020. 

Since then he has been waiting for his asylum claim interview. 

Once granted permission to work, he started his own pizza restaurant close to Drishane Castle Direct Provision (DP) centre where he lives in Millstreet, Co Cork.

He has contacted the International Protection Office (IPO) to explain the urgency of the situation and request his interview but was told there is a delay because of Covid restrictions.

"I don’t think the pandemic can be used as an excuse as the IPO employees are working from home and we can still get our interviews online through video conference especially since the number of applicants isn’t much this year and last year," Waleed added.

In the last few days, Emal has contacted the Department of Justice and his solicitor to see if he can speed up his asylum application so he would be able to bring his family over.

"I am educated and I work full time and I can look after my family but all I need is to speed up my asylum application," Emal said.

The only thing I rely on now is to speed up my process so I can meet my family. I was thinking last night about going back there - If I die, I would die but the important thing is that my sisters would not face any injustice.

''I still can't believe what's going on in my country."

Another asylum seeker from Afghanistan who lives in a DP centre in Dundalk and preferred to remain anonymous, told the Irish Examiner: "I have lost contact with my family as they are scared to go out to top up their internet."

He said he was concerned over food supply and for how long families like his would be able to handle the situation without aid.

"I hope the IPO helps us to speed up my application so that would help me in relocating my family before they become victims."

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told the Irish Examiner that from June 2021, asylum seekers who hold Afghan nationality are on a list of prioritisation.

A total of 70 applicants from Afghanistan sought asylum in Ireland up to June 30 this year. 

From January 1, 2017, until the end of June 2021, there were 421 asylum applicants from Afghanistan in Ireland, the spokesperson added.

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