Migrant row escalates as Irish PM suggests Sunak is refusing to accept returns because of general election

Migrant row escalates as Irish PM suggests Sunak is refusing to accept returns because of general election

Chris Heaton - 'we must deal with the European Union as a whole'

GB NEWS
Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke


Published: 01/05/2024

- 08:50

The Irish cabinet has approved legislation to make it legally possible to return migrants to the UK

The Irish prime minister has claimed that Britain agreed to take back its asylum seekers but suggested Rishi Sunak won't admit it because of the upcoming general election.

Simon Harris yesterday warned the Prime Minister that there was a "legitimate expectation" that the UK would honour the post-Brexit agreement on migrant returns.


While Downing Street admitted there was "an understanding" with Ireland, it claimed it had not been legally binding.

This comes amid an escalating row between the two nations after the number of migrants crossing the border to Ireland increased after the Rwanda scheme was passed into law.

Simon Harris/Rishi Sunak

The Irish prime minister has claimed that Britain agreed to take back its asylum seekers but suggested Rishi Sunak won't admit it because of the upcoming general election

PA

Earlier this week, Sunak's spokesperson hit back at Irish plans to draw up legislation to return migrants to Britain saying the UK would not accept them unless the EU agrees to take back migrants who have arrived in the UK over the Channel.

Harris said yesterday: "There’s an agreement in place between Ireland and Britain. This is a two-way agreement.

"This is to ensure that refugees can be sent in both directions if their application is inadmissible.

"We will have a legitimate expectation that agreements between two countries are honoured."

He added: "I’m not getting involved in British politics, I’m very well aware of where the electoral cycle is at in Britain and it’s not for me to comment on that."

The Irish cabinet has approved legislation to make it possible to legally return migrants to the UK.

Its government also announced it is deploying 100 police officers close to the border with Northern Ireland to monitor arrivals.

But Downing Street has said it is up to the UK Government to decide who is allowed to enter the country, despite any legislation the Irish government may pass.

Simon Harris

The Irish prime minister has claimed that Britain agreed to take back its asylum seekers but suggested Rishi Sunak won't admit it because of the upcoming general election

PA

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Even if Ireland was to pass legislation, it is up to the UK Government to decide who we do and don’t accept into the country and, clearly, we aren’t going to start accepting returns from the EU just as the EU doesn’t accept asylum returns from the UK to France.”

Speaking at a joint press conference this afternoon following a British Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC), Chris Heaton-Harris said: "Any agreement on returns, we've been told all the way through that the UK must deal with the European Union as a whole entity, so anything on returns has to be dealt with one that basis.

"And we are working on that with our European partners. Because this is a shared endeavour to try and stop criminal gangs illegally importing, and exporting people. Human trafficking people across the continent of Europe, into the UK and to Ireland."

He added: "We will work with everybody and anybody to try and solve this problem, but we do know we have to work with our European partners."

Ireland's justice minister, Helen McEntee, had raised concerns over a surge in asylum seekers across the Northern Irish border with over 80 per cent of those in the Republic now coming from the UK.

She called for "fast processing", adding: "My focus as minister for justice is making sure that we have an effective immigration structure and system."

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McEntee continued: "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 the Home Secretary to raise these issues on Monday."

But Home Secretary James Cleverly backed out of the meeting citing diary clashes. Instead, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris met with Irish officials earlier today.

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