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Britain takes back 50 migrants from Ireland

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Simon Harris, the taoiseach, urged Mr Sunak to abide by the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area returns agreement but the Government said the post-Brexit arrangement was not legally binding.

The UK also raised concerns about Irish plans to send 100 extra police to areas close to the border, which was kept open by the Brexit treaty creating the Irish Sea customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland

As the row continued, Downing Street suggested Ireland could join the Rwanda plan, which was dismissed as “satire” by the taoiseach.

Tensions over immigration high

The Irish Times reported on Wednesday that Mr Harris’s government was considering further restrictions on benefits for refugees in an attempt to drive down numbers arriving.

Tensions over immigration are high in Ireland, a country of about 5.1 million people, which is struggling with a housing crisis and has welcomed more than 104,000 Ukrainian refugees since Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion.

More than 6,000 people applied for asylum in Ireland by April 12 this year alone. If that rate continues, Ireland would have a record number of more than 20,000 asylum claims by the end of 2024. The previous record was 13,000 in 2004.

Dublin has claimed up to 90 per cent of the asylum seekers have crossed the border with the UK, but that has been disputed.

In an answer to a parliamentary question from Michael McNamara, the Clare Independent TD, Helen McEntee, the justice minister, also revealed that more than 21,000 asylum seekers were still awaiting a first decision on their claims and 30 per cent of them had been waiting for between one year and two years for the decision.

The immigration figures were released after the High Court in Belfast ruled that the Rwanda Plan broke the Windsor Framework Brexit border treaty and the European Convention of Human Rights, and disapplied it in Northern Ireland.

This led to warnings from some Unionists that it would make Northern Ireland a magnet for illegal migration.

A government spokesman said: “These people were stopped on their journey into Ireland. The UK and Ireland are both able to stop people entering their respective countries if they believe the traveller is abusing the Common Travel Area – as happened in this case.

“As the Prime Minister said, we have no plans for a returns agreement with Ireland for asylum seekers.”

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