Northern Ireland

Gardaí will not ‘physically police the border’ in new immigration role, Republic insists

100 officers will move away from ‘desk jobs’ to take on immigration frontline duties

The Central Statistics Office released the figures based on recorded crime data collected by gardai
100 gardaí will move to immigration enforcement roles, but will not physically police the border, the Republic's Department of Justice has said. (Niall Carson/PA)

Gardaí will not physically police the border, the Republic has insisted as up to 100 officers are to be moved to work in frontline “immigration enforcement”.

Dublin’s Department of Justice clarified that no visible border policing would take place as it announced it was taking on immigration registration work in order to free up 100 gardaí to carry out enforcement duties.

The department has said the officers’ work will include “deportations and other aspects of immigration enforcement”, while Taoiseach Simon Harris has said it will mean the officers are not confined to immigration “desk jobs”.

The confirmation comes as the Irish government approved draft legislation plans to redesignate the UK as a safe third country to return asylum seekers to.

The move follows last month’s High Court ruling in Dublin that the Republic’s designation of the UK as a safe third country was contrary to EU law.

The ruling prevented the Republic from returning asylum seekers who entered the state from the north, but the new legislation will remove that obstacle.

It was reported by RTÉ on Tuesday that justice minister Helen McEntee advised cabinet colleagues that up to 90% of asylum seekers in the Republic this year have travelled form the north.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said on Tuesday that the 100 gardaí taking on immigration duties would not be a physical presence on the border.

It is believed the officers will work in border counties but the department has stressed that keeping an open border remains a “key priority to the communities on both sides”.

Helen McEntee claimed 80% of asylum seekers are coming into the country from Northern Ireland
The Republic's justice minister Helen McEntee. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON (Niall Carson/PA)

“It is not the case that these gardaí will be assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland,” the spokesperson said.

The department will engage closely with An Garda Síochána over its expanding immigration role, which “will free up to 100 gardaí to focus on other core policing duties, which will include deportations and other aspects of immigration enforcement”.

The taoiseach said in the Dáil on Tuesday that the gardaí freed “from desk jobs in immigration” would work “more closely with the PSNI”.

Meanwhile, the Republic’s justice minister Helen McEntee said the new legislation on returning asylum seekers to the UK was aimed at preventing abuse of the Common Travel Area (CTA).

Millions of euro have been allocated for the proposed upgrade of the A5
Keeping the border open remains a 'key priority to the communities on both sides', the Republic's Department of Justice has said. (Liam McBurney/PA)

“It is essential that we have mechanisms in place to return people to the UK where the UK is deemed to be the appropriate country to process any application for protection,” she said.

Ms McEntee said the legislation was “one of a number of measures which I am taking to make sure we have an immigration system which is firm but fair”.

However, British prime minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the UK will not accept asylum seekers back from the Republic while the EU does not accept back illegal migrants crossing to the UK from France.

Mr Harris told reporters on Tuesday that Britain must honour its agreement with the Republic, struck after the UK left the EU in 2020, to accept asylum seekers back whose applications are “inadmissible”.