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‘Don’t send police to border’, Sunak tells Irish Government amid asylum row | BreakingNews.ie


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The UK prime minister has urged the Government not to send gardaí into border areas amid a row over asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

Rishi Sunak said they “must uphold its promises” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and avoid setting up checkpoints to prevent asylum seekers entering the country.

Diplomatic tensions between London and Dublin have increased in recent days after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee claimed there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the border following the passing of the UK’s Safety of Rwanda Act.

On Tuesday, the Government said 100 gardaí would be made available for frontline immigration enforcement duties, although Dublin insisted they would not be “assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland”.


Answering questions in the UK House of Commons, Mr Sunak said ministers were seeking “urgent clarification that there will be no disruption or police checkpoints at or near the border” and that there must not be “cherry-picking of important international agreements”.

He added: “Now, it’s no surprise that our robust approach to illegal migration is providing a deterrent, but the answer is not sending police to villages in Donegal. It’s to work with us in partnership to strengthen our external borders all around the Common Travel Area that we share.”

His comments came in response to a question from DUP MP Carla Lockhart, who accused the Government of “hypocrisy” given its stance on the border during Brexit negotiations.

Downing Street has repeatedly stressed that the UK is under no legal obligation to accept returns of asylum seekers from Ireland, and would not do so while France continued to refuse to accept returns from the UK.

There is an operational agreement on the Common Travel Area with Ireland which Dublin says provides for returning asylum seekers, but the UK prime minister’s official spokesman said this was not legally binding and nobody had been returned to the UK under its terms.

Simon Harris has previously said Ireland will not ‘provide a loophole’ for other countries’ migration ‘challenges’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

One person has been returned to Ireland under the agreement since it was signed four years ago, the spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, the spokesperson said: “We obviously work with them on a range of issues, including in relation to security issues in the Common Travel Area, but the UK has no obligation to accept returns.”

The UK government has claimed the reported increase in asylum seekers entering Ireland from Northern Ireland demonstrated that its Rwanda scheme was already acting as a deterrent.

Taoiseach Simon Harris has previously said Ireland will not “provide a loophole” for other countries’ migration “challenges”.

It is not clear how many asylum seekers have crossed the border into Ireland.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said his colleague Helen McEntee’s figure of 80 per cent of total border crossings was not “evidenced-based”, while DUP MP Ian Paisley told the Commons it was “made up”.

Downing Street said it did not have data on crossings as the border is not policed.

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