Northern Ireland news

Policewoman with Irish passport says UK Border Force refused her job application

How The Irish News reported on the UK Border Force dropping its 'British passports only' policy
Brendan Hughes

A POLICEWOMAN from Belfast has told how the UK Border Force refused to accept her job application because she had an Irish rather than a British passport.

She was turned away despite challenging officials on why only UK passport holders could apply – and even cited the Good Friday Agreement.

The officer said she was "very disappointed", and does not believe the criteria was an "error" as described by the British government.

Last week the Home Office removed criteria restricting new Brexit jobs to only British passport holders amid mounting pressure after the policy was exposed by The Irish News.

Political parties on both sides of the Irish border raised concerns, while the Equality Commission issued a warning on grounds of fair employment legislation.

The Home Office apologised and said more than 1,000 posts – including 21 based in Belfast – will be re-advertised without the UK passport requirement.

It said the criteria was an "error" and application packs should simply have asked people for any valid passport.

However, email correspondence seen by The Irish News shows an applicant raised the issue last November about a post during an earlier recruitment drive – and was told she could not apply.

The policewoman, an Irish passport holder, had questioned why she was ineligible even though she is able to work for a police force in England.

She also explained that she is a UK citizen and, being from Northern Ireland, she is entitled to hold either a British or Irish passport or both as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.

Responding, a Border Force official said they sought "further clarity from the Home Office HR team" but the position remained the same.

"We can confirm that as this is a reserved post, all candidates must hold a full UK passport in order to apply," they wrote.

The policewoman (29), who did not wish to be named, said she had applied for a Northern Ireland-based mobile officer role "as an opportunity to go home" and "couldn't understand why" she was considered ineligible.

"I thought if I asked them about it, it could be rectified but it wasn't. I was just very disappointed," she said.

"I sent it in writing, citing the Good Friday Agreement and telling them about my current role and that it's highly vetted, and they just responded saying Irish nationals can't apply because it's a reserved post."

She said she won't be re-applying, but is glad the issue has been resolved for future applicants.

"But I don't believe it was an error. I challenged it with them and they didn't rectify it at the time," she added.

Border Force, which deals with immigration and customs checks, is advertising the new posts in preparation for the UK leaving the European Union – fuelling fears of a hard border.

The jobs are regarded as 'reserved posts', which under British government civil service rules means "only UK nationals may be employed".

The SDLP's Claire Hanna, the party's Brexit spokesperson, branded the U-turn a "border farce" and "yet another example of the UK simply not understanding or caring enough about the different and specific impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland".

The British and Irish governments and the EU all insist they want to avoid a 'hard border' on the island of Ireland.

The Home Office was asked about the policewoman's experience, and how many new Border Force posts have already been filled under the 'UK passports only' criteria before it was dropped, but it did not respond.

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