Gardaí conducting checks along Border send 50 people without identity documents back to UK

Government moving to ‘more much sustainable model’ of migration, Taoiseach says

Gardaí conducting checks along the Border sent 50 people back to the UK in the recent days, rapidly escalating such returns as Taoiseach Simon Harris seeks tougher enforcement of immigration rules.

The number of people returned to Northern Ireland and Britain over four “days of action” last week was almost half the 107 returned over 21 earlier “days of action” in almost eight months since October.

With local and European election campaigns now into the final fortnight, the escalation of returns comes after the removal of asylum seekers’ tents from central Dublin and a new means test for welfare payments to people seeking international protection.

“If you come to Ireland and you don’t have a right to be here, you need to be told that and asked to leave more quickly,” Mr Harris told reporters in Limerick.


“If you come to Ireland and you have a right to be here you should be welcomed here, you should be integrated here.”

The Government was moving to a “more much sustainable model” of migration from an “emergency approach”, the Taoiseach said.

The escalation of returns was set out in new Garda figures, as the force said immigration officers work closely with bus and train operators when conducting checks in the Border area.

The Garda said “a total of 107 people were detected entering the State without the requisite visas or identity documents” in a period up last Monday – May 20th – that began in October.

“On this week, commencing 20th May 2024, a further 50 persons were detected entering the state without the requisite visas or identity documents and were refused leave to land,” the force said.

There were 11 “days of action” from October to December and another 10 “days of action” between January and May 20th, it added.

The escalating returns come on the heels of an Anglo-Irish diplomatic row in April over migration that was sparked by a claim from Minister for Justice Helen McEntee that 80 per cent of people seeking asylum in Ireland entered the State via Northern Ireland.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak seized on Ms McEntee’s assertion, saying it proved his policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda was deterring migrants from staying in the UK.

Although Dublin insists it has an agreement with London to cover any returns, Mr Sunak said Britain would not accept the return of any asylum seekers who travelled to Ireland after first claiming international protection in Britain.

Campaigning on Sunday, Mr Harris welcomed the Garda figures and said it was “really important we don’t have any abuse of the Common Travel Area” between Ireland and the UK.

“Yes, when we talk about migration we should talk about accommodation. But that cannot be the totality of the conversation,” the Taoiseach said.

“We also have to talk much more about the rules that are in place and the enforcement of the rules – and I certainly am encouraged by the fact that we read reports today of the ongoing active Garda operation and co-operation and collaboration that they have with the PSNI,” he added.

“This is a country that knows the value of immigration. We are a better country as a result of migration but we’re also a country that has rules – and I think people want to see along with compassion, common sense injected into the migration debate.

“What we’re seeing in today’s media is another example of those practical measures that we’re taking to enforce the rules that we have in our country around migration.

“We have to have a welfare system that is fair. We have to have a welfare system that has rules and those rules need to be applied.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times