Northern Ireland

ANALYSIS: Dublin diplomatic but cynics might suggest London not unhappy about the migrant movement to the south

Forget the common ties that bind, the Republic is in the EU

Tents pitched by asylum seekers along a stretch of the Grand Canal, Dublin, were removed last week
Tents pitched by asylum seekers along a stretch of the Grand Canal, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Officials in Dublin are trying to be diplomatic on the huge numbers of asylum seekers making their way south via the north.

The Department of Justice cannot speak about immigration matters in another jurisdiction.

But every day over the month of April as many as more than 70 people passed through the north’s ports and airports. These posts are manned by Border Force, immigration enforcement, officers.

Further, even the suggestion of checkpoints on the border is political dynamite. It makes for a complicated dynamic.

Demonstrators at a removal centre at Gatwick protest against plans to send migrants to Rwanda
Demonstrators at a removal centre at Gatwick protest against plans to send migrants to Rwanda (Victoria Jones/PA)

The UK Government is in the middle of rolling out its long delayed Rwanda policy. Under the plan, asylum seekers will be sent to the African country.

From published interviews with those who have made their way to Dublin and its International Protection Office, Rwanda is on their minds. Some have lived in Britain for years as they attempted to navigate its asylum process but then decided to make the move, many of them by bus.

Among the aims of the Rwanda policy is to deter migrants from attempting to travel to the UK. However, it appears a by-product is that many may be leaving and heading to the Republic.

While Dublin publicly is being diplomatic, a cynic could suggest the London government might not be too unhappy at this turn of events.

The two countries share a common travel area and for years, Brexit aside, have tried to be nice to each other. But in the end the Republic is in the EU, and the UK is not.

Immigration was a key issue during the Brexit wrangle, particularly in England. Taking back control of the borders was the main mantra. Forget this is Ireland, if many thousands of migrants are now making their way into the EU from Britain, then what is not to like for some of the the Brexiteers, including members of the present UK government.

This is and will continue to be likely one of the most important issues facing Republic in the coming years. For the size of the country, the numbers of non-Irish born are huge, rapidly increasing to now an estimated close to 15%.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly eight million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded in neighbouring countries and across Europe (Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

The open arms policy towards Ukrainian refugees has had a profound impact on the population make up. The numbers of asylum seekers likely would have been more manageable and less politically toxic without the state having to deal with close to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

A hugely different genesis but like the influx from Poland following its accession to the EU in 2004, the ties to Ukraine and its people could be of real mutual benefit as connections are made and there is a back and forth between the countries. But that is more about hope for the future of Ukraine and its people.

Though it received scant coverage, multiple thousands of people marched through Dublin last Monday in what could fairly be described as an anti-immigration rally. It can be assured most involved are decent people but it was explicitly nationalistic and led by individuals with hugely questionable public positions.

Research found there had also been an increase in the proportion of people who felt immigration was one of the top two issues facing Ireland today
Protestors at the anti-immigration rally in Dublin last Monday (Niall Carson/PA)

This is a European and general election year in the south. Immigration will be major issue, particularly for Sinn Féin. Many of its potential voters were on the streets last week.

But whatever about the politics, it is probably best remembered these are real people travelling through the north to Dublin, and sleeping in the tents along the Grand Canal. They are our fellow human beings.