Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Government rejects border criticism

The Department of Justice said the country's border controls are 'effective and robust'

The Irish Government has rejected suggestions from the UK that its border controls are "primitive".

It confirmed that officials are working closely with British counterparts to strengthen controls and stop criminals and illegal immigrants crossing the border into the north unchecked.

But a Department of Justice spokeswoman insisted the country's border controls are "effective and robust" and that any measures imposed are in line with those in the UK.

She also said the fact that no passport checks are carried out between Ireland and the UK due to the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement in no way lessens the country's control of who can or cannot enter.

"Ireland is a sovereign nation and, within the overall context of our membership of the European Union, our partnership with the UK in the operation of the CTA in no way alters our control over immigration or visa matters and who can and cannot enter or reside in Ireland," the spokeswoman said.

"That said, co-operation on CTA policy and operational matters is now at an unprecedented level with regular and ongoing communication and consultation between the immigration authorities of both countries.

"This has been hard won, taking many years involving lengthy discussions and negotiations to bring it to where it is today."

It is reported that the British Government is to give manpower and technology to Ireland amid fears its controls are insufficient in stopping people entering the UK illegally - via Northern Ireland.

The CTA has long been a bone of contention, with British officials suggesting it enables foreigners to gain access to the UK unchecked.

But the Department of Justice spokeswoman said the agreement, which has been in place since Ireland gained independence in 1922, had been of "immense political, social and economic significance" to the Irish state.

The Telegraph newspaper has reported that the UK has offered support to Ireland to boost its border control standards.

It cited a Whitehall source as describing its current measures as "primitive" and said meetings on the issues were held as recently as the autumn.

But the Department of Justice spokeswoman insisted co-operation on immigration issues is always ongoing, which includes regular briefings on major policy changes and how they may affect the CTA agreement.

"Co-operation between the two countries also involves senior officials now meeting on a very regular basis and it is rare that a week would pass without conversations between Irish and UK counterparts at a senior as well as at an operational level taking place," she said.

"Also at an operational level, large amounts of information on non-European Economic Area passenger movements to and within the Common Travel Area are exchanged on a daily basis.

"At the initiative of Ireland, details pertaining to people arriving in Ireland are now passed to the UK as a matter of course, thus further enhancing the effective co-operation between our two countries."

She said it makes sense that both countries' strategies and technologies are compatible.

"The checks at our borders are effective and robust," the spokeswoman added.

"There is access to all standard international immigration watch lists and Garda databases. Approximately, 3,000 persons are refused entry to Ireland annually.

"Unlike the UK, we have the legal powers to refuse entry to a non-national attempting to illegally enter the state along the land border."

She said while such checks are not systematic - and there are no plans to change the situation - more non-nationals have been refused entry along the border than at any other point of entry to the state except Dublin Airport.

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