HomeWorldIreland plans to send asylum seekers back to UK under emergency law

Ireland plans to send asylum seekers back to UK under emergency law

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Ireland and Britain are on a collision course over asylum seekers, with Dublin vowing to send arrivals to Ireland back to the UK and London insisting it will not accept any.

A diplomatic row erupted on Sunday after the taoiseach, Simon Harris, asked the justice minister, Helen McEntee, to bring proposals to cabinet next week to allow the return of inadmissible international protection applicants to the UK, amid concern that Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan was rerouting asylum seekers from Britain.

“This country will not in any way, shape or form provide a loophole for anybody else’s migration challenges,” Harris said on Sunday. “Other countries can decide how they wish to advance migration. From an Irish perspective, we intend to have a firm rules-based system where rules are in place, where rules are in force, where rules are seen to be enforced.”

The planned legislation follows a claim by Sunak that the Conservative party’s deterrence was working, and after it emerged that 80% of recent asylum seekers to Ireland came via the land border with Northern Ireland.

A UK government source said it would not accept any asylum seekers from Ireland without a wider deal with Brussels. “We won’t accept any asylum returns from the EU via Ireland until the EU accepts that we can send them back to France. We are fully focused on operationalising our Rwanda scheme and will continue working with the French to stop the boats from crossing the channel.”

Ireland had previously designated the UK a “safe third country” to which asylum seekers could be returned but last month the Irish high court ruled that this breached EU law, impeding further returns.

McEntee said she would shore up Ireland’s controls and discuss the return of refugees with James Cleverly and other British officials during a visit to London on Monday.

“That’s why I’m introducing fast processing, that’s why I’ll have emergency legislation at cabinet this week to make sure that we can effectively return people to the UK and that’s why I’ll be meeting with the home secretary to raise these issues on Monday,” she told RTÉ.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Sunak said the Rwanda legislation signed into law last week was already having an impact because people were worried about coming to the UK.

“Illegal migration is a global challenge, which is why you’re seeing multiple countries talk about doing third-country partnerships, looking at novel ways to solve this problem, and I believe will follow where the UK has led.”

Last week, a protest in County Wicklow over proposed refugee accommodation led to violent clashes with police who used shields and sprays and arrested six people. Police said rocks and other missiles were thrown and they recovered an axe.

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There have been protests and arson attacks on proposed refugee accommodation centres and demonstrations outside ministers’ homes, fuelling anxiety over far-right agitation.

At a speech in County Monaghan the taoiseach said warning signs around the abuse of public figures should be taken seriously. “We have had too many warnings and we need to take them seriously before the unthinkable happens.”

Ireland has taken in more than 100,000 refugees, about three-quarters from Ukraine. There is an acute housing crisis that has driven up rents and homelessness and fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment. A riot last November wrecked parts of central Dublin.

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