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Micheál Martin and Chris Heaton-Harris during the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference last November. PA Images
Immigration

UK says Tánaiste 'confirmed' no gardaí will be sent to border for migration checks

Tánaiste Micheál Martin had a ‘constructive phone call’ with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris last night.

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has “confirmed” there will be no gardaí deployed to the border with the North, according to a statement from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

Tánaiste Micheál Martin had a ‘constructive phone call’ with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris last night, amid diplomatic tensions after Dublin said there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the border following the passing of the UK’s Safety of Rwanda Act.

Concern was raised after Justice Minister Helen McEntee said her department was planning to make 100 additional police officers available for “frontline enforcement work”.

While Dublin insisted these gardaí would not be “assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland”, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Commons yesterday he wanted “urgent clarification” that there would be no disruption or checkpoints near the border.

The issue continued to dominate last night, including at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, where Martin noted the challenges it was creating for the State, the party’s politicians and local communities.

In a statement yesterday evening, the NIO said Heaton-Harris had a “constructive phone call” about illegal migration with the Tánaiste.

It said:

The Tanaiste confirmed that there will be no deployment of officers from An Garda Siochana (Irish police) to the Northern Ireland/Ireland border and that the Irish Government shared a steadfast commitment to securing the external border of the Common Travel Area.

Another focal point of the diplomatic row centred on Dublin passing emergency legislation to deem the UK as a “safe country” for the return of asylum seekers.

Both governments have acknowledged the existence of an “operational agreement” which provides for the reciprocal return of asylum seekers between the UK and Ireland, but Downing Street has said it contains no legal obligations to accept them.

Sunak said he was “not interested” in a returns deal if the European Union did not allow the UK to send back asylum seekers who had crossed the English Channel from France.

‘Covid-style response’ to migration

Martin reiterated the need for the government to handle the issue at last night’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting, saying that it was creating significant challenges for the State, the party’s politicians and local communities.

Martin said he wanted to see a ‘Covid style response’ to manage the communication and engagement with communities, saying that improvement was needed on all fronts. He wants to see a Covid style response.

It’s understood that Martin told TDs and senators that political slogans or promises won’t solve the issue and further cooperation on an international level and working with our EU partners could be the only solution.

This included the strengthening procedures and processes, the enhancement to the EU screening systems will help process applications faster, which is one of the keyways deal with the situation.

embedded276029585 Rishi Sunak said there must be ‘no cherry-picking of important international agreements’. Yui Mok / PA Yui Mok / PA / PA

In a softening of language, the statement from the NIO on Wednesday concluded: “The Secretary of State reiterated that the UK will not accept any readmissions or returns arrangements that are not in our interest.”

The phone call came after Sunak said the Irish Government “must uphold its promises” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and avoid setting up checkpoints to prevent asylum seekers entering the country.

Answering questions in the Commons, Sunak said ministers were seeking “urgent clarification that there will be no disruption or police checkpoints at or near the border”.

He added: “Now, it’s no surprise that our robust approach to illegal migration is providing a deterrent but the answer is not sending police to villages in Donegal. It’s to work with us in partnership to strengthen our external borders all around the common travel area that we share.”

With reporting by PA and Christina Finn

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