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Irish and British governments must work together on illegal migration – Varadkar

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Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA in Washington DC

16 March, 2023 19:18

Ireland must work with the UK to crack down on illegal migration into both countries, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said there had been an increase in people using the Irish land border to enter both Ireland and the UK irregularly.

He said it was important that free movement on the island for UK and Irish citizens, provided for by the Common Travel Area, was preserved.

“Anything that the UK does in relation to migration or border controls impacts on us,” Mr Varadkar said during a visit to Washington DC.

“And we have seen an increase in the number of people seeking international protection who have come across the border from north to south, rather than through our ports or airports.

“That, of course, does go in both directions.

“Because a lot of it is clandestine, it’s very difficult to get accurate statistics as to how people got into the country and where they were before that.

“It’s really important that the Irish and British governments work together on the issue of irregular migration in particular.

“We have a Common Travel Area which allows us to travel north/south freely and between Britain and Ireland freely, you know just with an ID and with very few complications.

“We need to protect that. It’s very valuable to us. And that’s why we will work together on these issues, and it will certainly feature in my conversations with the British Government and is happening at ministerial level too.

“So, certainly when it comes to irregular migration, if we can stop people getting onto either island illegally, well then that removes the issue of the crossing between the two jurisdictions.”

Mr Varadkar was asked whether the UK government’s controversial legislative Bill to crack down on human trafficking was an example of the sort of hard-line action he was supportive of.

The Illegal Migration Bill aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.

“Well, I think human trafficking is wrong,” he replied.

“It’s an illegal activity for a start and what human traffickers do is they put people on boats and send them across the sea to another country and they don’t really care if they die on the way or not because they got the money.

“You know, it is a criminal industry and I think everyone, any right-thinking person, would want to be hard on that. It’s not a particular issue for us in Ireland because our seas are so vast that people can’t get there on small boats, but I can understand why governments across Europe, particularly the Mediterranean area, have to take the actions that they do.”

Mr Varadkar said Irish police had reported that irregular entries to Ireland using the airports were decreasing, at the same time more people were entering the country via the land border from Northern Ireland.

“Certainly, there is evidence from the gardai that when we started checking people coming off the planes again that that decreased the numbers coming through Dublin airport, but there was an increase of people then coming from north to south,” he said.

“But I should say it goes in both directions. It’s not a case of Ireland blaming Britain or Britain blaming Ireland. We have a Common Travel Area, we need to preserve that and that means working together on these issues.”

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