The Government has agreed to provide up to 500 additional places for Afghan family members.

More than 670 Afghan nationals have already been granted permission to reside in the State this year.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said the new reunification scheme announced today will apply to family members who are vulnerable in Afghanistan or who have fled to a neighbouring country.

She said the Government is very conscious of the plight faced by people in the country following the takeover of the Taliban.

Ms Humphreys said that more admissions under existing schemes are also expected in the weeks and months ahead.

The Government said it will be up to the Afghan people in Ireland to apply to get their relatives here.

Once in Ireland they will be able to stay for up to two years and can then apply to other programmes to remain.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O'Gorman said that almost 400 humanitarian visas have been issued following the takeover of the Taliban, with 150 of these visa holders already in Ireland.

He said visas are being given to frontline human rights' defenders, people who work in supporting women's non-governmental organisations, journalists, members of the LGBTI+ community, and those who are particularly vulnerable to the Taliban takeover.

Mr O'Gorman said these people have full refugee status on their arrival in Ireland.

The minister said those arriving from Afghanistan will not go into direct provision.

They will be initially accommodated in emergency reception and orientation centres, he said, and subsequently resettled around the country.

Mr O'Gorman said that a range of talented people are coming here through the programme.

These include journalists and a number of young women who work in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics area, who he said had specific threats made against them by the Taliban.

Ministers James Browne (L), Heather Humphreys and Roderic O'Gorman making the announcement in Dublin

The Minister of State for Immigration said that once the Government opens the applications process for the new admission programme and sees what the demand is, it will be able to assess whether the initiative can be expanded beyond the 500 places currently available.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, James Browne said the Department of Justice has always acted to minimise the break-up of families, but he said it cannot have a scheme that is open ended and does not have the capacity to support these families.

He said the State has to have a scheme in place that it can deliver on.