Rishi Sunak offers Ireland chance to join Rwanda scheme amid high tensions over migrants crossing NI border

2 May 2024, 23:20 | Updated: 3 May 2024, 04:26

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said that the Republic will not be a loophole for Britain's migration issues - after the UK Government rejected Ireland's bid to return migrants to Northern Ireland.
Rishi Sunak has offered Ireland the chance to join the Rwanda deportation scheme - after migrants crossing into the Republic sparked a major political spat. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Rishi Sunak has offered Ireland the chance to join the Rwanda deportation scheme - after migrants crossing into the Republic sparked a major political spat.

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Downing Street offered the chance for Dublin to join the controversial scheme after Mr Sunak rejected demands by Simon Harris, the Irish prime minister, to take back asylum seekers who had crossed from Northern Ireland.

A No.10 source told the Telegraph: “If the Irish government believes the Rwanda plan is already having an effect, we can explore Ireland joining the Rwanda scheme.

Read More: ‘We’re not going to do that’: Rishi Sunak slaps down deal with Ireland to return asylum seekers to UK

Read More: Rishi Sunak claims migrant influx to Northern Ireland is 'proof' government's Rwanda plan is working

"Many countries are looking at a third country now, which is why Sir Keir Starmer’s amnesty for 115,000 illegal immigrants a year is so shortsighted.”

London, UK. 1st May, 2024. Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, leaves Number 10 to go to Parliament for Prime Ministers Questions. He will face Sir Keir Starmer across the despatch box. Credit: Mark Thomas/Alamy Live News
Downing Street offered the chance for Dublin to join the controversial scheme after Mr Sunak rejected demands by Simon Harris, the Irish prime minister, to take back asylum seekers who had crossed from Northern Ireland. Picture: Alamy
Taoiseach Simon Harris speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin, on investment in student accommodation. Picture date: Thursday April 25, 2024.
Ireland previously said that 80 per cent of its illegal migrant arrivals are people coming across the border from Northern Ireland who fear they might be sent to Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

Ireland previously said that 80 per cent of its illegal migrant arrivals are people coming across the border from Northern Ireland who fear they might be sent to Rwanda.

Mr Sunak told ITV News that Britain is “not going to accept” migrants being returned.

He compared the UK’s refusal to accept the return of refugees from the Republic to France’s refusal to accept the return from Britain of refugees who travelled on small boats from French beaches.

He said: “We're not interested in that. We're not going to accept returns from the EU via Ireland when the EU doesn't accept returns back to France where illegal migrants are coming from.

"Of course we're not going to do that."

The offer comes after the Home Office kickstarted a string of raids on Monday as part of Operation Vector to round up the first people who could be deported to the African nation within 11 weeks.

The department put out photos and videos of people being handcuffed and shoved in the back of vans across the country.

LBC understands there have been raids across all four regions of the UK in the last few days - though officials are remaining tight-lipped about how many people have been rounded up so far.

Speaking to LBC about flights to Rwanda beginning, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: "The principle of the policy is one that I whole-heartedly support.

"We need to have effective deterrents and that is in the form of stopping people-smuggling gangs crossing the channel, exploiting vulnerable people and sometimes killing them.

"It is so inhumane and needs to stop. The only way it will stop is if people realise that journey will not lead them to a life in the UK and that they will be relocated to Rwanda."

But she added: "I don’t think we should be claiming that the policy has been a success just on the basis of this flight [earlier this week].

"This person who was on the flight was paid £3,000, he volunteered to go to Rwanda and was not someone who came here on a small boat so it's not really relevant to the policy."

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