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Sunak says UK Govt seeking 'urgent clarification' that no Garda checkpoints will be along NI border

‘Of course there won’t be,’ Taoiseach Simon Harris said today.

UK PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak today urged the Irish government not to send police into border areas amid a row over asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland into the Republic.

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.

Diplomatic tensions between London and Dublin have increased in recent days after Justice Minister Helen McEntee claimed there had been an upsurge in asylum seekers crossing the border. 

On Tuesday, the minister said 100 police officers would be made available for frontline immigration enforcement duties, although the department clarified: “It is not the case that these Gardaí will be assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland.”

Answering questions in the House of Commons today, Sunak said Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris was seeking “urgent clarification that there will be no disruption or police checkpoints at or near the border” and that there must not be “cherry-picking of important international agreements”.

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.”

Downing Street has repeatedly stressed that the UK is under no legal obligation to accept returns of asylum seekers from Ireland, and would not do so while France continued to refuse to accept returns from the UK.

When asked if such clarification had been sought by the UK government, the Taoiseach said: “I have no idea”.

In relation to whether gardaí will be carrying out checks along the border, he said: “Of course there won’t be.”

The Department of Justice clarified yesterday, after the minister made the announcement about the additional 100 gardaí being freed up: “It is not the case that these Gardaí will be assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland.”

“I’m not getting involved in British politics,” the Taoiseach said today, adding that he was very aware that  local elections are taking place in UK tomorrow.

“I have no interest as the Taoiseach of this country of being involved in day-to-day back and forth in the House of Commons. But what I do have an interest in is agreements, agreements between two countries. And I very much welcomed the British Prime Minister’s comments in relation to the importance of countries upholding agreements.

“We’ll uphold the agreements that we have, with Britain, under the Common Travel Area to the standard operating procedures that we have in place. I also welcome the comments of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State where he at the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference refers to the importance of the two countries working together to protect the Common Travel Area from abuses,” he said.

The Taoiseach said regularising Irish laws in relation to the arrangement with Britain is only one of a number of things the government intend to do to make sure there is a “firm effective migration system”. 

With reporting by Press Association

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