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Asylum seekers crossing the border a ‘huge challenge’

Legislation to address the issue of returning asylum seekers to the UK is expected to be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday, according to Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Peter Burke.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, he said he has not yet seen the legislation but there needs “a lot of joined operations” with police in Northern Ireland to deal with the issue of asylum seekers crossing the border, which he described as a “huge challenge”.

“Obviously we have an open border, we fought so hard for that ability during Brexit because it is so important to our country for the free movement of people, goods and services.

“That’s critical to our success as an island economy and we have to protect that,” he said.

“But we will work trying to respond to this issue with the Minister for Justice on Tuesday.”

Read: Govt to consider emergency laws to send asylum seekers back to UK

Minister Burke said that in order for there to be a returns policy, there must be an agreement with another country and you cannot “just ring up the Taliban and say we’re bringing people back to Afghanistan”.

Speaking on the same programme, Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson for Public Spending and Reform Rose Conway-Walsh said the Government was “once again behind the curve” on this issue.

She said the Common Travel Area “didn’t just happen in the last week” and robust discussions with the British government are needed.

She said the UK’s Rwanda Bill was “their business” but Ireland’s business was to have a “firm, fair, robust policy” for asylum seekers.

Aontú leader Peader Tóbín said he believes there should be an Irish Sea border and that a person coming onto the island of Ireland should have a passport check.

He said the idea of checkpoints on the border “was not possible”.

Independent TD Marian Harkin said the asylum system here “is not working”.

She said the system works in other countries but “just doesn’t work for Ireland”.

“What Ireland must do is have a system in place that is fair and robust but that works, and that’s not happening,” she said.

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