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‘I can’t sleep. I’m always waiting for a bad phone call,’ says Afghan refugee living in Cork as he watches crisis unfold at home

Immigrant support centres receive a number of queries from Afghan nationals living in Ireland, who are desperately seeking information on sponsoring family members to come as refugees as the crisis in Afghanistan escalates

All Ahmed can do is sit by the phone and brace himself for the worst.

A widowed father of four, the Afghan refugee is considered enemy number one of the Taliban after serving as a major in the Afghan Special Forces before he fled to Ireland as a refugee in 2016.

Now living in Cork, Ahmed – not his real name – fears his family, including his siblings, his elderly parents and extended family members will be tortured or killed after the Taliban took over his family’s village in Paktia province three weeks ago.

Ahmed survived four attempts on his life by the Taliban before he fled to Ireland. But not before they shot and killed his 27-year-old brother in front of his wife and two children, whom he now supports financially from Ireland.

And he fears other family members could be next.

"They think I’m an infidel,” he told Independent.ie. "They have no mercy for us.

"I know loads of people in the police force who were dragged out of their homes and shot in front of their wife and kids,” he said.

"I know one person from my village who went home for Eid and was shot while he was in the mosque,” he said, referring to the Islamic religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

His uncle was threatened by Taliban insurgents last week who demanded to know Ahmed’s whereabouts.

And he fears they won’t stop at threats.

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"I have no comfort. I can’t sleep. I am always waiting for a bad phone call,” he said.

"I never wanted to see the this day, where they have taken over my home village.”

As for his family in Afghanistan, they live in constant fear. They won’t leave the house after 4pm and if they must go out, they travel in groups of two or three and carry weapons, he said.

And while he and his Afghan-born children, aged between 13 and 19, are safe in Ireland, they are devastated by what his happening at home and have stopped watched the news about their homeland because it is too upsetting.

“I was using Facebook but I had to delete it because all I saw was blood and killing,” he added.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the NASC immigrant support centre in Cork said it has received a number of queries from Afghan nationals living in Ireland, predominantly in Dublin, Cork and Waterford, who are desperately seeking information on sponsoring family members to come to Ireland as refugees as the crisis in Afghanistan escalates.

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Farzia, 28, who lost her husband in Baghlan one week ago to fighting by the Taliban sits with her children, Subhan, 5, and Ismael ,2, in a tent at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Farzia, 28, who lost her husband in Baghlan one week ago to fighting by the Taliban sits with her children, Subhan, 5, and Ismael ,2, in a tent at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Farzia, 28, who lost her husband in Baghlan one week ago to fighting by the Taliban sits with her children, Subhan, 5, and Ismael ,2, in a tent at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

"This is having a very real and immediate impact on communities in Ireland,” she told Independent.ie.

However both possible avenues for family reunification for refugees from Afghanistan are effectively closed now.

Even if they weren’t there is no means of escape at the present time, she added.

"The borders are closed off. It’s incredibly treacherous,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to provide consular assistance to Irish citizens.

"As with all consular cases, it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of any specific case,” the spokesperson said.

“We are gravely concerned at the speed and scale of the Taliban’s offensive and the impact of current levels of violence on the Afghan people.

“As a member of the UN Security Council since January, Ireland has consistently called on the Taliban to end its campaign of violence, and to commit to a permanent ceasefire to prevent further suffering to civilians.

“Ireland has also joined with the international community in urging the Taliban to re-engage in the Doha peace negotiations. A negotiated political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is the only way to secure a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

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Displaced Afghans look through a fence at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Displaced Afghans look through a fence at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Displaced Afghans look through a fence at a makeshift IDP camp in Share-e-Naw park to various mosques and schools (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

“The gains made by the Afghan people over the past two decades, including increased respect for human rights, especially for women, children and minorities, must be protected.

"Ireland has previously joined with the international community in highlighting that the future provision of support to the Afghan government is conditional on protecting and promoting human rights, especially for women and girls, and minorities.

“In this context, we are particularly concerned about reports of violence and coercion against women and girls, including reports of forced marriage and sexual violence and serious human rights abuses against civilians across Afghanistan.

"Ireland will host a meeting of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security at the UN next week on the situation of women in Afghanistan.

“We are also monitoring the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which is exacerbating pre-existing challenges, including poverty, hunger, the ongoing drought and escalating violence in the country.

“We will respond to these urgent needs in partnership with the EU and UN agencies, the ICRC and international NGOs, while continuing to be a voice for the protection of civilians, humanitarian actors and human rights defenders in Afghanistan at the UN Security Council in line with our values.”


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