Refugees pour into Ireland as Dublin blames Britain’s Rwanda policy

·3-min read
Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Britain’s Rwanda policy has triggered a surge in refugees arriving in Ireland, Dublin said on Saturday, in a seeming admission that the deal to deport asylum seekers to central Africa is deterring people from coming to the UK.

Senior figures in the coalition government, including the Irish prime minister, have blamed Britain’s new migration measures for an increase in people seeking asylum in Ireland instead, causing an accommodation crisis that has forced Ukrainians to be put in tents.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Rwanda policy aims to deport illegal immigrants to the African country in a bid to deter people making dangerous and unlawful Channel crossings to Britain.

The Home Office refused to comment on the accusations by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, leader of the Greens, one of his two coalition partners.

‘Less welcoming environment’

“Recent policy changes in other jurisdictions, including the UK, as the Taoiseach referred to, may be creating the perception of a less welcoming immigration and international protection environment, leading to secondary movements of applicants,” an Irish government spokesman told The Telegraph.

“One can see, and maybe sense that that policy announcement, which I thought was a wrong policy announcement by the UK, a shocking sort of initiative in my view, to be doing some agreement with Rwanda, clearly may have motivated people utilising the Common Travel Area to come into the Republic – yes, I think it is one of a number of factors,” Mr Martin said last week.

The Common Travel Area is a long-standing open-borders agreement between Dublin and London, which has welcomed about 95,400 Ukrainian refugees to a country of 60 million people.

Some 60 per cent of people seeking international protection are now doing so at offices in Dublin, rather than at the airport. Usually, almost two-thirds of asylum claims are made at the airport.

Ukrainian refugees - Michal Dyjuk/AP
Ukrainian refugees - Michal Dyjuk/AP

Irish officials believe the change could be due to refugees crossing the invisible border from Northern Ireland.

The Irish government said that the Rwanda policy was just one of the factors contributing to an unexpected increase in refugee numbers since last Autumn.

A spokesman pointed to the resumption of international travel after the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine as other reasons.

There are fewer places for non-Ukrainian refugees across the EU because there are so many fleeing Putin’s forces, which has increased numbers attempting to claim asylum in Ireland.

Ireland, which has a population of just over five million, was already facing a housing shortage before more than 40,000 Ukrainians fled there after Russia’s February invasion of their homeland.

€2.5bn cost to care for refugees

The Irish government has announced it will cost €2.5 billion to care for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees next year and suggested it could take in up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.

It is obliged to take in Ukrainians under an EU agreement and there are no plans to cap numbers.

Ireland has waived visa requirements for Ukrainians, which means they do not have to claim asylum and instead are granted “temporary protection” for an initial period of a year. On arrival, they are given welfare payments, access to healthcare, education, accommodation and the right to work.

The unprecedented numbers have put huge pressure on a country already facing a housing crisis, despite a generous response to pleas for host families or offers of holiday homes for Ukrainians.

The shortage of accommodation has become so intense that refugees will be housed in military tents in four campsites, including one army base.

Dublin changed its rules on visa exemption for refugees this week to stop non-Ukrainians granted protection in other EU member states being able to travel to Ireland without a visa, in a bid to control the numbers entering the country.