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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Boston yesterday Alamy Stock Photo
Rwanda Style

Varadkar 'supports' proposal that could see asylum seekers deported to countries in North Africa

The proposal has been likened to the UK’s proposed Rwanda asylum plan.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he “supports” a proposal by the European People’s Party which could see asylum seekers deported to “safe third countries” in North Africa or the Middle-East.

Fine Gael are part of the European People’s Party (EPP), which is made up of major centre right parties across the EU.

In its manifesto ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, the EPP has called for a “Europe that protects its borders and tackles illegal migration”.

The EPP backs a “fundamental change in European asylum law” and that it wants to “implement the concept of safe third countries”.

The proposal has been likened to the UK’s proposed Rwanda asylum plan, which would see some asylum seekers arriving in the UK sent to Rwanda to have their applications processed, with no right to return to the UK.

The plan has been deemed unlawful by the UK Supreme Court and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda.

The EPP said in its manifesto that “anyone applying for asylum in the EU could be transferred to a safe third country and undergo the asylum process there”.

“In the case of a positive outcome, the safe third country will grant protection to the applicant onsite,” added the manifesto.

The EPP noted that the “safe third country” will have to be in line with the “core obligations of the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights”.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Varadkar re-iterated that the proposal would have to be done in line with the above conventions.

He also noted that the EPP proposal of processing asylum seekers in third countries is “something that’s already envisaged in the EU Migration and Asylum Pact” and which the EU has agreed to.

He said this Migration and Asylum Pact would involve the EU “coming to agreements with some of the countries that ring the European Union, in North Africa and Turkey, and in the Middle East”.

Varadkar said that the EU would then “come to agreements with those countries to assist them financially, to increase and improve border controls, and to establish centres in transit countries where international protection applicants could be processed”.

“It’s not an EPP proposal that people would necessarily vote for or against in the European elections,” said Varadkar.

“This is something that’s already envisaged in the EU Asylum and Migration Pact, which Ireland has to make a decision as to whether we opt into or not.

Varadkar also said there is a “myth” that Ireland is “inviting people to come to claim asylum or that we’re welcoming them in in big numbers”.

“We dissuade people coming to Ireland irregularly if they’re not genuinely entitled to international protection,” said Varadkar.

“If they are genuinely entitled to international protection, then we don’t dissuade them.

“We’re in a very difficult situation in Ireland at the moment where we can’t guarantee people accommodation as they arrive, yet the numbers are increasing.

“I think there’s a bit of a myth out there that somehow we’re inviting people to come to Ireland to claim asylum or that we’re welcoming them in in big numbers.

“That’s not the case, it’s the push factors that are causing people to travel.”

Varadkar told reporters that there are “100 million people on the move around the world” because of “push factors” including poverty, climate change, and war, and that it’s “not a surprise that a very small percentage might make their way to Ireland”.

Varadkar added that there are “increasing numbers coming over the border from north to south”.

He said he is “working with European colleagues to strengthen borders around the European Union because most people who come to Ireland to seek international protection have already passed through the United Kingdom or other European countries”.

A recent poll carried out by The Journal/Ireland Thinks asked respondents if they would be in favour of an EU-wide version of the UK’s ‘Rwanda plan’.

Some 26% of respondents said they “fully or somewhat support” an EU wide arrangement for a third country to house asylum seekers, similar to the UK’s proposed deal with Rwanda.

However, 47% “fully or somewhat oppose” such a measure, while 27% said they are “not sure”.

The poll also found that voters are evenly split on the relevance of immigration when thinking of who to cast a vote for in the upcoming European elections.

A third of voters intend to vote for a candidate with strong anti-immigration views in the June elections.

However, a third have an opposite viewpoint and will not vote for a candidate who has strong anti-immigrant views.

Meanwhile, 35% of voters said the issue of immigration will not influence their vote. 

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