In the Irish Times, Frank Millar gathers together [subs req] some recent comments relating to the future of the Common Travel Area, in light of the intention of the UK government to tighten UK border controls. Worth noting in particular, given Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s comment noted here, is the quote from NIO minister Paul Goggins
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland security minister Paul Goggins has confirmed that illegal immigrants do cross the land border from the Republic into Northern Ireland. In a letter to Lord Kilclooney, Mr Goggins said the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) assessment is that only a small number of these people remain in Northern Ireland, with most travelling on to Britain. Mr Goggins quotes the British government’s Border & Visa Strategy: Securing the UK Border, published in March, identifying that the Common Travel Area “poses an immigration risk”. The agency estimates that the number of illegal immigrants travelling in the opposite direction (from the UK to Ireland) is about the same.
Also reported, from Paul Goggins letter to Lord Kilclooney, in the Irish Times [subs again]
The immigration agency, he says, has committed to the monitoring of all air and sea movements across CTA borders via e-Borders by 2011; to share more data with its Irish counterparts and increase the number of joint operations; deepen coverage of CTA borders by closer collaboration between UK border agencies; explore the potential for additional checks on passengers travelling within the CTA; and review the rules governing CTA border activity, based on the principle that CTA nationals are not subject to immigration control on the internal borders.
Interesting to note that in response to the question from Lord Kilcooney in the Lord’s debate noted in the Irish Times report,
“Will there be any immigration officers on the land boundary between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland? If not, will the Republic of Ireland apply the same entry requirements as immigration officers will require when people enter Great Britain? If not, people will enter the Republic of Ireland—as they now do—and move freely across the land border into the United Kingdom. Therefore, the impact of this Bill will be null and void.”
Lord Bassam on behalf of the government stated
“All I can say on the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, is that nothing in the Bill changes the nature of our relationship with those in the common travel area, which, of course, includes the Republic of Ireland. I take the noble Lord’s general point that we must have effective border control and management—that has informed all of our debates on the Bill.”
It’s a point worth considering. As suggested in the update to an earlier post
According to Mark Devenport’s blog
UPDATE: A Home Office statement says “There are no plans to require domestic passengers to produce passports on all domestic air and sea journeys”. So does that mean NI passengers won’t have to produce one to sail to Stranraer?
If it does, those new UK border controls will have to be mirrored by the Republic of Ireland if they’re to be effective.
And it’s a point that has been raised before on Slugger and elsewhere.
Which brings us back to the introductory paragraphs to Frank Millar’s report
The successful development of “electronic” borders and the necessary protection of the Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic will require the virtual integration of British and Irish immigration controls.
That is the verdict of some senior Northern politicians tracking current British legislation to effect tighter “UK” border controls and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s initial comments on the development of “an Irish border system” likely to be “similar in some ways to the British system”.
And there’s an additional point worth highlighting.
While the mechanisms of those controls may be mirrored, if not necessarily identical, policy would also have to be considered. It would be in keeping with the increased co-operation East-West.. although who would be taking the lead in such policy decisions might need to be explored with diplomatic sensitivity.
No doubt such considerations were the subject of discussion at the July meeting of the British Irish Council.