Ireland will not ‘provide loophole’ for any other country’s migration challenges, says Harris

British prime minister Rishi Sunak says large numbers seeking asylum in the State after crossing from Northern Ireland suggests his country’s Rwanda policy is working

Taoiseach Simon Harris has said that Ireland will not “provide a loophole” for any other country’s migration challenges.

It comes in the wake of comments by British prime minister Rishi Sunak who said large numbers of people seeking asylum here after crossing from Northern Ireland suggest his country’s controversial Rwanda policy is working.

Speaking at the entrance to the Senator Billy Fox Memorial Park near the village of Bawn in Co Monaghan, the Taoiseach said Ireland would “not provide a loophole” for any other country’s immigration challenges.

“Every country is entitled to have its own migration policy – but I certainly don’t intend to allow anybody else’s migration policy affect the integrity of our own,” he said.


“From an Irish perspective we intend to have a firm rules-based system where rules are in place, where rules are enforced, and where rules are seen to be enforced. It is a statement of fact that there was a returns agreements in place between Ireland and Britain, and there was a High Court decision in March in relation to that. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, will now bring forward legislative proposals to Cabinet on Tuesday that will seek to put in place a new returns policy. We await the full details of that, but it’s one which will effectively allow people to be returned to the United Kingdom. ”

In relation to further checks, in particular along the Border, the Taoiseach added it was a “statement of fact” that the PSNI and An Garda Síochána already work together on attempts to tackle human trafficking, but he said: “I do certainly think that’s going to be there for much more of that, in terms of that collaboration. So I do know my colleague, the Minister, has information for the British home secretary tomorrow, I very much welcome that. But any scenario in relation to any loopholes, perceived or otherwise, will be responded to by this Government.”

While the Taoiseach steered clear of addressing Mr Sunak’s comments directly, he did say “whether their policies are working are a matter for the British people to decide”.

He stressed that the “integrity” of Ireland’s migration policy would not be undermined by legislative decisions made in other countries.

“I’m very clear on that. This is the country that sees the benefit of migration. There’s absolutely no doubt. But it’s also a country that has rules in place. It’s a country that intends to enforce those rules. We intend to provide humanitarian assistance to those who come here and have a right to it. But we also intend to have a scenario where, for people come here and don’t have a right, that they can be returned, and the proposals being brought forward by my colleague the Minister for Justice this week will facilitate that.”

Legislative proposals will be brought before Cabinet on Tuesday targeted at stemming the tide of illegal immigration entering Ireland from across the Irish Sea.

The emergency legislation will be tabled by Minister Helen McEntee, who informed a parliamentary committee last week that more than 80 per cent of recent arrivals to the Republic came via the land border with Northern Ireland.

On Sunday Mr Sunak made comments to Sky News that migrants rerouting towards Ireland showed that the UK’s Rwanda scheme was working as a deterrent after it finally became law last week.

At the weekend The Sunday Times reported to date in 2024, 6,739 people have applied for asylum, and of these more than 90 per cent were first encountered by Irish authorities when arriving in Dublin.

Intelligence services, meanwhile, according to the paper, suspect the true figure of people arriving to Ireland illegally is between 50,000 to 70,000 annually.

The update on progress of the new emergency legislation was provided by Mr Harris as he attended the 50th anniversary commemoration of the murder of the late Senator Billy Fox in Monaghan on Sunday.

His comments, that Ireland intends to put in place a new policy to return migrants to the UK comes ahead of the Irish Justice Minister meeting her UK counterpart, Home Secretary James Cleverly in London tomorrow.

Deputy Fine Gael leader and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys concurred with what the Taoiseach had said, and shared her worry at the ramping up of alleged rhetoric around immigration issues of late.

In particular she criticised the language used by the British government in the lead up to Brexit as being “wrong” and “dangerous”, and stressed the importance of maintaining an open border with Northern Ireland.

“We’re an island as you know, and the only open border we have is with Northern Ireland, and we want to keep that in place. We fought hard to keep that open border during Brexit, and it’s important that stays. So I think people need to be careful in the language that they use because it can cause difficulties. We know what the British said around Brexit, it was bring back our borders. That’s wrong. We shouldn’t be talking like that. It’s dangerous language. We need to be careful.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times