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Govt must ‘do more’ to stem flow of IPAs from NI

The Taoiseach has acknowledged that the Government must “do more” to stem the flow of asylum seekers across the border with Northern Ireland.

Simon Harris was appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan had noted the remarks of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee yesterday, in which she claimed that more than 80% of asylum seekers enter the republic over the land border.

“We have to do more in this space,” Mr Harris replied. “This wasn’t always the way. And, in fact, this is is a relatively recent-month phenomenon”.

Ms McEntee will meet with the UK Home Secretary to discuss this “possibly as soon as next week”, he added.

“A lot of focus” on people arriving illegally through airports has “yielded positive results”, meaning that “the number of people coming through the airports as a percentage is very significantly diminished”.

While the PSNI and gardaí do collaborate, Mr Harris said that “there’s an ability to do more there”.

A group which oversees the Common Travel Area is also due to meet shortly, the Taoiseach told the committee.

“We’re very proud of the fact,” Mr Harris said, “there is no hard border on the island of Ireland”.

“But even within that construct there still has to be an ability to work and collaborate better.”

Mr Harris also said that the housing and migration crises are related and must be approached with that in mind.

He defended changes to the EU migration system which the Government is supporting, and the Government’s approach to which countries are safe to return asylum seekers to.

“We can best help those who are seeking humanitarian assistance by making sure we have faster answers, and faster returns policies and deportations for those who don’t [qualify],” he said.

The “formula” which Ms McEntee brought to Cabinet yesterday is “an intelligent way to proceed,” he added.

“And of course, there are other ways to come to Ireland as well,” Mr Harris said. “I think we need to broaden that conversation”.

Minister McEntee has said that fewer than 100 people have been deported of the near 7,300 people refused refugee status in Ireland since the beginning of 2023.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, she said: “This is not where we want to be in terms of physically removing people, not only does that take much longer, not only is it much more costly, not only is it much more challenging, it is less effective.”

Asked where the other 7,200 are, the minister said there are “various different stages that then people can appeal…and you might have quite a high number of those in appeal.”

So far this year, Ms McEntee said, over 5,000 people have applied for asylum in Ireland and over half of those are secondary movements.

She declined to say whether the large numbers of asylum seekers crossing the border from Northern Ireland was the result of the UK’s Rwanda policy.

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