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Government ‘confirms’ no gardaí being sent to Border | BreakingNews.ie

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The Government has “confirmed” there will be no gardaí deployed to the Border on the island.

The Tánaiste and the Northern Secretary held a phone call on Wednesday evening amid diplomatic tensions after a reported upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the Border following the passing of the UK’s Safety of Rwanda Act.

Concern was raised after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said her department was planning to make 100 additional gardaí available for “frontline enforcement work”.

While the Government insisted gardaí would not be “assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland”, British prime minister Rishi Sunak told the UK parliament he wanted “urgent clarification” that there would be no disruption or checkpoints near the Border.

In a statement later on Wednesday, the Northern Ireland Office said Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris had a “constructive phone call” about illegal migration with Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Rishi Sunak said there must be ‘no cherry-picking of important international agreements’ (Yui Mok/PA)

It said: “The Tánaiste confirmed that there will be no deployment of officers from An Garda Síochána to the Northern Ireland/Ireland border and that the Irish Government shared a steadfast commitment to securing the external border of the Common Travel Area.”

Another focal point of the diplomatic row centred on Dublin passing emergency legislation to deem the UK as a “safe country” for the return of asylum seekers.

Both governments have acknowledged the existence of an “operational agreement” which provides for the reciprocal return of asylum seekers between the UK and Ireland, but Downing Street has said it contains no legal obligations to accept them.

Mr Sunak said he was “not interested” in a returns deal if the European Union did not allow the UK to send back asylum seekers who had crossed the English Channel from France.

Irish migration
Tents housed asylum seekers near to the Office of International Protection in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

In a softening of language, the statement from the Northern Ireland Office on Wednesday concluded: “The Secretary of State reiterated that the UK will not accept any readmissions or returns arrangements that are not in our interest.”

The phone call came after Mr Sunak said the Irish Government “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.

Answering questions in parliament, 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.”

Mr Sunak was replying to a question from DUP MP Carla Lockhart, who accused the Irish Government of “hypocrisy” given its stance on the border during Brexit negotiations.

Asked about Mr Sunak’s comments, Taoiseach Simon Harris reiterated that no gardaí will be sent to border areas, saying: “Of course there won’t be.”

Noting upcoming elections in the UK, he expressed a desire to not become “involved in the day-to-day back and forth in the House of Commons”.

However, he stressed the “importance of countries upholding agreements”.

Mr Harris said: “We’ll uphold the agreement we have with Britain under the Common Travel Area, the standard operating procedure that we have in place.

“I also welcome the comments of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, where he referred to the importance of the two countries working together to protect the common travel area from abuses.

“Regularising our laws in relation to the arrangement we have with Britain is only one of a number of things we intend to do to ensure we have a firm, effective migration system.”

Knife crime sentencing
Helen McEntee said there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the Border following the passing of the UK’s Safety of Rwanda Act (Liam McBurney/PA)

Asked about the diplomatic dispute, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Harris had provided Mr Sunak’s government with a “propaganda coup” in the run-up to elections.

Speaking to RTÉ, she added: “It’s never a good place for the Irish Government to be scoffed and laughed at in the House of Commons.”

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.

The UK Labour Party said it agreed with the British government that the UK should not accept returns from Ireland “while Britain is not able to return people who arrive here from the EU”.

Mr Martin has previously said a figure provided by Irish justice minister Helen McEntee that approximately 80% of asylum seekers were coming from Northern Ireland was not “evidence-based” while DUP MP Ian Paisley told the Commons it was “made up”.

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

It is not clear how many asylum seekers have crossed from Northern Ireland into the Republic, with Downing Street saying it did not have that data as the Border is not policed.

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