Tensions rise as UK refuses asylum seeker returns from Ireland

Published on: 24 Apr Mon
Last week, the Irish government announced emergency laws to return a rising number of asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland. But the PM's official spokesperson said it was up to the UK "to decide who we do and do not accept into the country". Irish and UK ministers met on Monday to discuss the asylum system. The prime minister's official spokesman said: "Clearly, we are not going to start accepting returns from the EU just as the EU does not accept asylum returns from the UK to France. "Even if Ireland was to pass legislation, it is up to the UK government to decide who we do and do not accept into the country. Rwanda plan: Ireland 'won't provide loophole', says Taoiseach What is the UK's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda? The Irish government says it is seeing an influx of asylum seekers coming from Northern Ireland because they are "fearful" of being sent to Rwanda. And it says it will not allow Ireland to provide a "loophole" for anybody else's "migration challenges". Ireland's deputy leader Micheál Martin denied the row is developing, but a scheduled meeting between Home Secretary James Cleverly and Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee was postponed at short notice late on Sunday night. But the asylum system took centre stage at a pre-arranged meeting taking place on Monday between Mr Martin and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris. The meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference, which was established under the Good Friday Agreement and has met regularly since. Following the meeting Mr Heaton-Harris said "in no way [do] we want to upset our relationship with Ireland" on asylum claims. But he added that since Brexit, the UK has been directed to "deal with the EU as a whole entity" - and that is the government's current approach. The UK government was still committed to "protecting" the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement, which allows free travel between the UK and Ireland, "from abuse" by asylum seekers.