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Helen McEntee Alamy Stock Photo

McEntee: Border controls 'crackdown' as Government to consider adding to safe country list

Helen McEntee said that she is to decide shortly on increasing the number of states on the so-called “safe countries” list.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Helen McEntee has said that new measures at the border were “a crackdown” on people who are entering the country in the wrong manner and seeking international protection status.

McEntee, speaking on RTE Radio this lunchtime, said that she is also to decide shortly on increasing the number of states on the so-called “safe countries” list.

The designation applies to countries deemed to be safe for the purposes of asylum applications, precluding arrivals from those countries from obtaining refugee status.

Eight nations are currently given the designation in Ireland: Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; North Macedonia; Georgia; Kosovo; Montenegro; Serbia; and South Africa.

In deciding which countries are ‘safe’, the Minister must consider a number of criteria, including the relevant laws and regulations of the country and how they are applied, and whether they comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Minister’s decision is also based on information from a number of sources, including from the social situation in the country including the level of crime, whether there is a risk of torture or armed conflict.   

“Safe countries are there to make sure that our international protection system is not used, essentially, as a backdoor to economic migration.

“So I need to make sure that the international protection system that is there to protect people who are fleeing persecution fleeing inhumane treatment, that they have access to the system as quickly as possible, and that other people who potentially are here for economic reasons that they are processed as quickly as possible, but that we send a very clear message that you need to use the proper channels, the proper routes, that you’re going to be turned around quickly,” she said. 

McEntee used the example of Georgia and said that when it was added to the list there was a 50% reduction in people from there applying. 

She admitted that it is a “crackdown” and said that generally four out of ten arrivals are successfully processed as international protection applicants.

“But the six out of 10 who shouldn’t be coming this particular route, I guess in that sense it is a crackdown, they’re going to be processed quicker. So now it’s in less than 60 days, that they’re going to be turned around much quicker [including] their appeal as well, and that they’re not going to be successful,” she added. 

McEntee also said that she will consider increasing fines for airlines if passengers arrive in Ireland without passports or official documents.

The Minister also spoke about the ongoing debacle in An Garda Síochána in which no candidate has come forward to fill the role of Deputy Commissioner for Policing and Security. 

She admitted that it was “not ideal” that the post will be filled by Deputy Commissioner Shawna Coxon who will be double jobbing with her role in charge of strategy, governance and performance.

The issue arose because of a tax measure in which senior public servants suffer a reduced entitlement as they are paying a higher rate of tax on their pensions above a certain threshold.

She did not agree with Independent Kildare TD Cathal Berry who said that the post should not be filled by someone who is not from Ireland. Coxon is from Canada. 

The Minister also said that she would support Ireland joining the genocide case taken by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice.