HomeBussinessBritain ‘not in business’ of taking more migrants, warns Mel Stride

Britain ‘not in business’ of taking more migrants, warns Mel Stride

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Britain is “not in the business” of taking more migrants, a Cabinet minister has warned Ireland after it vowed to send asylum seekers to the UK.

Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said he saw no reason why the UK should take back migrants from Ireland when the EU and France would not accept returns from Britain.

The row broke out after senior Irish ministers said they would draft emergency laws to send back refugees who had arrived from the UK to avoid being deported to Rwanda.

Last week, Micheal Martin, the Irish deputy prime minister, said the UK’s Rwanda policy was “impacting on Ireland” because people were “fearful” of staying in the UK and were seeking asylum in Ireland instead.

Return of migrants to UK

Simon Harris, the Irish prime minister, has asked for proposals for a new law to be brought to his cabinet this week to pave the way for the return of migrants to the UK.

However, Mr Stride said on Monday morning: “We are not in the business of having more Channel migrants in the UK.”

“We have a situation where people are coming across from France illegally. The French are not prepared to take back the illegal migrants. I don’t see why we should have any different situation.”

He added: “There are going to be discussions between the Irish Government and ours. I very much doubt we are going to end up in a position where we are going to say: ‘We are going to be taking anybody back’.

“Not least because when it comes to France and other EU countries, they are not in the business of taking people back either.”

British-Irish intergovernmental conference

The row is expected to feature in talks on Monday between Mr Martin and UK Northern Ireland ministers Chris Heaton Harris and Steve Baker as part of the British-Irish intergovernmental conference in London.

Helen McEntee, the Irish Justice Minister, has pulled out of the conference in London today in what was seen as a tit-for-tat following Home Secretary James Cleverly’s decision to cancel their meeting yesterday. Home Office sources cited a diary clash.

Immigration to Ireland rose by 32 per cent in the year ending last April, with asylum seekers accounting for more than 13,000 of over 140,000 arrivals. Irish ministers suggest that 80 per cent of the asylum seekers are crossing the border from the UK, and have cited the deterrence of Rwanda as a factor.

Mr Harris said on Sunday: “Every country is entitled to have its own migration policy, but I certainly don’t intend to allow anybody else’s migration policy to affect the integrity of our own one. 

“This country will not, in any way, shape or form, provide a loophole for anybody else’s migration challenges. That’s very clear.”

‘Deterrent effect’

However, Mr Stride was unapologetic about the Rwanda policy. Asked if it was designed to force migrants into Ireland, he denied it was the case but said it was designed to act as a deterrent.

He said: “The design is to ensure there is a deterrent effect. We passed the Rwanda Bill that means those coming here illegally can expect to be removed to Rwanda. What we are already seeing is a deterrent effect kicking in. That’s why we are seeing people moving from the UK into Ireland.”

Before Brexit, the return of migrants to EU countries was governed by the Dublin Agreement, under which migrants could be sent back to a safe third country through which they had passed before arriving at their destination.

This meant that asylum seekers arriving in Ireland from the UK, or migrants reaching the UK from France, could be returned if it could be shown that they had passed through a safe third country – that is, the UK or France.

But the UK left the scheme when it left the EU and no successor agreement was signed during the Brexit talks, meaning there are no formal returns agreements in place between EU countries and the UK.

A post-Brexit provision was, however, made in the case of the UK and Ireland, which meant Ireland could return asylum seekers to Britain. No asylum seeker has been successfully returned to Ireland, or vice-versa, under this post-Brexit arrangement since it was struck.

However, the Irish High Court last month ruled that the Irish government’s declaration of the UK as a “safe third country” to which it could return asylum seekers was unlawful, owing to the Rwanda Bill. The emergency legislation proposal seeks to overturn this judgement.

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