Ireland aims to enact legislation on returning asylum seekers to UK by end of May

By Thomson Reuters Apr 30, 2024 | 11:24 AM

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s government said on Tuesday it planned to enact legislation by the end of May allowing it to resume sending asylum seekers back to the United Kingdom.

The Irish High Court ruled last month that Ireland could not send back people who arrive from the UK seeking asylum because the Irish government had not outlined whether they could be at risk on their return.

With differences over the issue growing between London and Dublin, Prime Minister Simon Harris set out plans for Justice Minister Helen McEntee to overcome the High Court ruling in remarks to parliament.

“The (justice) minister received permission (from cabinet) to draft legislation and intends to enact it by the end of the month and will lay out in the legislation how she intends to respond to the High Court,” Harris said.

He also urged London in earlier comments to stand by a 2020 agreement that allows for asylum seekers to be returned in either direction.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said on Tuesday that Ireland had not returned anyone to the UK under the 2020 agreement because it had been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently faced a legal challenge.

Immigration is an increasingly important political issue in Ireland, where asylum applications have been rising sharply.

Plans by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to deport unlawful migrants to Rwanda without an opportunity to seek asylum in Britain raise particular issues for Ireland because it has a land border with the UK.

Britain expressed support on Monday for Ireland’s plans to enact legislation enabling it to resume returning asylum seekers to the UK, but Sunak cast doubt on the arrangement by saying he would not accept returning asylum seekers from the EU via Ireland.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin)