A CORK woman is appealing to Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to help save the lives of an Afghan family in hiding from the Taliban.
Joya Kuin, who works as an event manager at Cork’s community boatyard Meitheal Mara, has asked Mr Coveney to help secure visas and a place on the Irish Refugee Protection Programme for her friends Samira and Hamed Naderi, and their baby son Zahid.
The Naderi family are fugitives from Afghanistan’s Taliban government, and say they have been told they will be killed if caught.
Ms Kuin said she is appealing to Mr Coveney, and to his Government colleagues, to help secure visa waivers for the family, and to allow them to come to Ireland as refugees.
Ms Kuin said she had gotten to know Mr Naderi when she had been a fundraiser for the Afghan Women’s Network, where Mr Naderi had worked.
Mr Naderi’s wife Samira had worked as a scientist teaching young women under the previous Afghan government. The couple has been in hiding with their infant son since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last August after the United States withdrew its troops from the country.
“As soon as the Taliban took over Kabul, they raided the offices of the Afghan Women’s Network, closed them down, and confiscated all staff records,” Ms Kuin told The Echo.
Shortly afterward, she said, the Taliban came looking for Mr and Ms Naderi and told Mr Naderi’s family that he would be killed if found.
Since then, Ms Kuin said, the family has been in hiding and she has only been able to make contact with them once, when Mr Naderi told her the Taliban had been going door-to-door, arresting people who had worked in government, media, education, and progressive organisations.
“The family has had to move again, and I haven’t been able to get any further updates on their case and Irish visas,” Ms Kuin said.
“They’re in imminent danger and I just can’t stress enough how urgent this situation is.”
Ms Kuin said she and her friends have already secured a home for the Naderi family if they are granted refugee status and allowed to come to Ireland. Cork arts manager Nicki ffrench Davis and her husband, fiddle-maker Bertrand Galen, have agreed to host the family in their home and to help them integrate into the community.
“We have everything ready in Cork City to support them, to help them make a life in Ireland, and all we really need at this stage is just for the officials to look at their case and save their lives,” Ms Kuin said.
An online petition set up by Ms Kuin to Mr Coveney, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman and Justice Minister Helen McEntee, has received over 1,000 signatures.
Ms Kuin said she was appealing directly to Mr Coveney, both as minister for foreign affairs and as her local TD, to help rescue her friends, who, she says, are in mortal danger.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “Minister Coveney is aware of the case and his office has received correspondences.
“These requests for assistance have been brought to the attention of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth which is the relevant Government department on this matter.”
When The Echo contacted the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth, a spokesperson said the Irish Refugee Protection Programme currently has some 400 places available for humanitarian cases from Afghanistan, and this is being kept under review, as capacity allows.
“The Department of Justice is responsible for visas for travel to Ireland, including in cases where people wish to join a family member residing in Ireland.
“That department is currently prioritising family reunification applications for Afghan international protection beneficiaries and visa applications for the family members of people residing in Ireland who are currently based in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said.