THERE has been an increase in the numbers of people coming from across the Border to seek international protection in the Republic, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
However, he has ruled out frontier checks and said Ireland and Britain must work together to preserve the Common Travel Area and to restrict illegal migration in both islands.
“I met with the Garda National Bureau of Immigration and also the border control unit in the past few weeks to talk about how we can improve our border controls,” Mr Varadkar said while in Washington ahead of St Patrick’s Day..
Asked if the majority of IP applicants were crossing the border, he said in Washington: “We don’t know for sure. People who seek international protection in Ireland obviously can come through the airports and the seaports, and they can come over the Border from the North.
“Certainly there is evidence from the gardaí that when we started checking people coming off the planes again, that decreased the number coming through Dublin Airport, but there was an increase of people then coming from North to south.”
“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.
“What the UK does in relation to migration or border controls impacts on us.
“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.
“Because a lot of it is clandestine, it’s difficult to get accurate statistics as to how people get into the country and where they were before that.
“It’s really important that the Irish and British governments work together on the issue.”
The Common Travel Area is “very valuable to us” and had to be protected, he said.
“That’s why we will work together on these issues and it’s a certainty to feature in my conversations with the British government. It is happening at ministerial level too.
“When it comes to irregular migration, if we can stop people getting on to either island, illegally, then that removes the issue of them crossing between the two jurisdictions.”
Mr Varadkar added that human trafficking is wrong and an illegal activity, when asked about British legislation banning arrivals on small boats from claiming asylum.
Traffickers “don’t really care if they die on the way or not, because they’ve got the money”, he said, adding: “It’s a criminal industry, and I think every right-thinking person would want to be hard on that.”
Small-boat arrivals are not a particular issue in Ireland “because our seas are so vast, 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,” he said.