Sunday 18 November 2018

'Illegals' leaving UK for here after Brexit could 'sink asylum system'

A Spanish Civil Guard holds a migrant child, intercepted in the Strait of Gibraltar. Photo: REUTERS/Jon Nazca
A Spanish Civil Guard holds a migrant child, intercepted in the Strait of Gibraltar. Photo: REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Ken Foxe

Any perceived tightening of UK immigration controls could see "illegals" look across the Irish Sea instead, a Department of Justice briefing warns.

The report, prepared for Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, warned Brexit could also have an enormous impact here.

It also said even the smallest changes in Ireland's system of direct provision had the potential to "sink the asylum system" here.

The warnings were contained in a ministerial briefing prepared after a Supreme Court judgment gave asylum seekers living in the direct provision system the right to work.

The briefing also said the State could face a significant childcare bill due to the changes, as many asylum seekers in the system are single parents.

It explained how the common travel area between Ireland and the UK meant it was important the immigration systems in the two countries were "broadly similar".

This avoided "creating pull factors" that could be taken advantage of by people moving from Britain to Northern Ireland and then into the Republic.

"We have seen situations where major difficulties have arisen, which can often take years to correct and which has major knock-on effects for various arms of the State," it said.

In 2015, asylum applications in Ireland rose by a third, mostly from Pakistan and India. These were people who "either were illegal in the UK or whose immigration permission was about to run out there".

"Many of these applicants used the asylum process to get a foothold in the State before attempting sham marriages," it said. The department officials said the fallout of this was still being dealt with, even after a crackdown on new applications of this type.

The briefing, released under Freedom of Information laws, said even "small changes and deviations" between Ireland and the UK in the asylum system could have a huge impact.

"One critical point to note is that the impact on Ireland is hugely disproportionate because of our respective population size," it said.

The report said that in the UK there was an estimated population of "illegal" nationals from outside the European Economic Area of between 400,000 and 800,000.

"Taking the mid-point of that range, even if only 1pc were to come to Ireland and claim asylum, it would mean an additional 6,000 applicants.

"This would literally sink the asylum system, putting massive pressures on other State services, such as housing," it said.

The briefing also warned Brexit now needed to be factored in and that even a "perception of a tightening" in UK immigration could see "illegals" look elsewhere. "The most obvious option would be to seek to exploit the common travel area and come to Ireland," it said.

Irish Independent

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