Monday, May 20, 2024

UK-Ireland migration row deepens as Tories signal offer to allow Ireland join Rwanda scheme

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Government officials have dismissed the mischievous suggestion as tensions between Dublin and London over migration continue.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has warned opposition TDs about being taken in by the “right-wing Tory press to attack the Irish Government”.

A diplomatic row between Taoiseach Simon Harris and British prime minister Rishi Sunak continues to bubble away amid claims that up to 90pc of asylum-seekers arriving in Dublin have crossed from Northern Ireland.

The surge in entries of asylum-seekers from the UK is being linked to London’s controversial plans to send migrants to land-locked Rwanda in central Africa.

Yesterday, officials in Dublin became aware of the latest claims from Downing Street that the UK government will invite Ireland to join the Rwanda plan, the Irish Independent has learned.

No such offer has been made, and the Tories know it would be rejected outright anyway. The story was being planted in the Eurosceptic British press.

The outlandish suggestion was viewed as another example of what the Tánaiste sees as desperate Tory efforts to attack the Irish Government.

The Rwanda plan has drawn ­criticism from various international bodies, including the Council of Europe and the UN.

But talking tough on migration is viewed as a last refuge for the Tories in their desperation to salvage some losses.

A local elections poll yesterday predicted the Conservatives will lose hundreds of seats in councils across Britain, with a UK general election wipeout also looming this year.

All week long, Downing Street has been picking fights with the Government in Dublin.

Mr Sunak said the UK will not take back asylum-seekers who have come from the UK and crossed the Border from Northern Ireland.

It comes as Justice Minister Helen McEntee announced plans to bring forward legislation to increase fines for airlines that allow passengers on board without proper documentation.

Ms McEntee told a cabinet sub-committee yesterday that Nigerian asylum-seekers in Ireland now face being sent back to Nigeria due to the continuing row with the UK.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee and British prime minister Rishi Sunak

A High Court case recently ruled in favour of asylum-seekers who did not want to be returned to the UK as the country was not safe due to the forthcoming policy of sending unsuccessful international applicants to Rwanda.

Ms McEntee told the committee that Nigerian asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected under the fast-track system may soon be returned to their country of origin.

The British claimed this week that proposals to assign more gardaí to immigration duties was a plan to police the Border to stop migrants entering the country and prompted Mr Sunak to attack the alleged proposal.

Mr Martin dismissed the front-page stories it generated as “the right-wing Tory press”.

The Tánaiste hit back at Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, who said the Government’s recent “chaos” on migration was “a PR boon to the Tory party in their election campaign”.

He added: “You couldn’t make it up.”

Referring to the local elections in the UK, the Tánaiste replied: “We’ll see by the end of the night whether it’s been a PR boon or not.”

Mr Gannon said Mr Martin had told his Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on Wednesday night that communication and engagement on migration needed to improve “on all fronts”.

The opposition TD said it was incredible that Mr Martin had to acknowledge it “this far into the chaos”.

“Every couple of months you’ve promised that you will improve communications,” he said. “It’s very hard to communicate a plan for migration that you very clearly don’t have.”

Mr Gannon asked when “this shambolic government” was going to get its act together and put a proper plan in place for migration.

Mr Martin replied: “You couldn’t make it up – a left-wing deputy like yourself, invoking the right-wing Tory press to attack the Irish Government.

“And you’re taking the [Daily] Tele­graph seriously? There is obviously no one [from An Garda Síochána] at any border.

“There are no checkpoints at the Border. But I remember actually a former British prime minister, in my time as taoiseach, when there were blazing headlines across the British press saying, ‘The frigates are going to France’.”

Mr Martin seemed to be referring to Boris Johnson’s often-exaggerated rhetoric over migration.

The Tánaiste told Mr Gannon that such headlines “made me stand back and just reflect a bit”. He told the Social Democrats TD: “Don’t get taken in by the Telegraph, deputy.”

Ms McEntee told the cabinet sub-committee yesterday evening that the fast processing times for migrants coming from “safe countries” has reduced the numbers of people coming to Ireland from those countries by 50pc.

She said Georgia was added to the “safe” countries list when it had the highest number of applicants. It is now no longer in the top 10 when it comes to international protection applications.

The meeting also heard cabinet-approved legislation to close the legal loophole following the High Court ruling that the UK was not a safe country would be passed by June.

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