In 2018, 505 people were arrested on arrival in Ireland, in order to prevent them from reaching the United Kingdom, according to figures collected by the website Vice News. In 2019, there were 526 immediate referrals from the territory. Figures that could increase rapidly, because Brexit risks turning the Emerald Isle into a diverted entry route to the United Kingdom.
The CTA problem
Ireland is part of a free movement area with the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Isle of Man and Wales). In this area, called the Common Travel Area (CTA), all nationals have the right to study, work, travel without a passport and benefit from the same social assistance. This arrangement exists in practice but was not formalized in the texts until recently, once the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union.
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However, Brexit poses a problem: that of controlling the movement of people. As Ireland remains a member of the EU and of the European Economic Area, it guarantees the freedom of movement of European citizens. For its part, Northern Ireland remains aligned with the United Kingdom, while the land border on the island remains open.
A regime “more rigid and aggressive” than before
« During the debates for the 2016 referendum, the idea of setting up British checkpoints in Ireland was deemed to be fanciful and brushed aside ”, recalls Daniel Holder, at the Committee for the Administration of Justice, an NGO based in Belfast. « But if we look at the situation, it is already happening: Ireland is currently doing the UK’s dirty work! »
After invalid passports and visas and “Attempt to enter for reasons other than expressed”, the “Possibility of continuing his journey to the United Kingdom” is the fourth most frequent reason for immediate return to one’s country of origin. Americans and Brazilians represent 40% of the people refused on the territory.
The American Ryan Volrath paid the price. In 2019, coming to join his companion living in Northern Ireland with their three children, the father was unable to go beyond immigration controls. His lawyers then denounce the fact that “The Irish authorities are working with a much more rigid and aggressive regime” than before.
A ripple effect
This criticism is shared by associations defending the rights of migrants. “Ireland has tried to align itself with the draconian measures put in place by the United Kingdom: the aim is to regulate the external borders of the CTA without the need for an internal border », explains Daniel Holder. A “hard” border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is not an option, as it is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which restored peace to the region.
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« The UK’s tightened controls have a worrying ripple effect in Ireland ”, worries Paul Murphy, member of the Irish Parliament with the Rise movement, which raised the problem vis-a-vis the head of government. « With a Conservative and right-wing government in Westminster, regulations in the UK will continue to tighten – and that’s not what we want for Ireland! “ He is worried about racist drifts and facies controls. Not to mention that a refusal to enter the territory can pose problems to apply for other international visas.