Northern Ireland

Jim Allister claims protocol makes north a 'potential haven for illegal immigrants'

TUV leader Jim Allister. Picture: Hugh Russell
TUV leader Jim Allister. Picture: Hugh Russell TUV leader Jim Allister. Picture: Hugh Russell

The British government's controversial Rwanda asylum plan will "lack full and effective impact" in Northern Ireland due to the protocol, TUV leader Jim Allister has claimed.

The North Antrim MLA said the post-Brexit trade arrangements agreed by the EU and UK government meant asylum seekers – or what he termed "illegal immigrants" – can rely on human rights protections that may no longer apply in Britain.

Earlier this week the British government resurrected its plan to deport those who enter the UK without authorisation after the original policy was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court last month.

The new bill compels judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country and gives ministers the powers to disregard sections of the Human Rights Act.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was forced to call a news conference to shore up his authority in the aftermath of Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick's resignation.

Mr Jenrick said the revised law "did not go far enough".

Mr Sunak said the former minister was wrong but insisted a Westminster vote on the bill next week would not be a vote of confidence in his government.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Picture by James Manning/PA
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Picture by James Manning/PA British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Picture by James Manning/PA

According to Mr Allister, the High Court recently confirmed that under the protocol, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which mirrors much of the European Convention on Human Rights, is enforceable in the north.

The king's counsel said there may be other relevant EU laws which are applicable in potential deportation cases and that the Good Friday Agreement "is said to guarantee retention of the ECHR" in the region.

Read more:

  • What is the Government's new Rwanda plan and could it trigger an election?
  • Sunak's Rwanda policy ‘won't work', Braverman says

The TUV leader claimed the situation made the north a "potential haven for illegal immigrants".

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said he had a number of concerns about the Rwanda Bill, including its potential "unpicking of rights and protections under the Good Friday Agreement and Article 2 of the Windsor Framework". 

He described the policy as "immoral and unworkable".

"It is bizarre to see some people complaining that Northern Ireland would not have quite the same draconian legislation as the rest of the UK," the North Down MP said. 

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said the north being subject to the ECHR meant "the British government’s latest immoral legislation cannot be fully applied here".

“Like most things, it’s fair to say that the impact on Northern Ireland won’t have been at the front of the UK government’s mind with this legislation - it never is, and this whole episode is more about managing their internal factions," the South Belfast MP said.