As the Deputy will appreciate, every State has a duty to protect its own security and prevent illegal immigration, human trafficking and other organised crime activity. The Border with Northern Ireland is somewhat unique as it is a jurisdictional border between the two states where the common travel area also exists, in other words, where Irish and British citizens are entitled to travel between both states. However, it is the case that immigration controls have to be deployed from time to time to detect and prevent persons abusing the common travel area to enter the State illegally.
Although there are no permanent immigration controls in place between this jurisdiction and Northern Ireland, An Garda Síochána implements mobile immigration controls to tackle illegal immigration and human trafficking. As the Deputy is aware, a central tenet of policing in this country is to uphold people’s rights and it is important to note that while these interventions target potential immigration abuse and other crimes, they are not passport controls. In this context, I am informed that there is daily operational level co-operation between immigration officers and members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau and their UK counterparts, including intelligence-led operations, to prevent abuse of the common travel area. A person can be refused leave to enter the State if it is determined that the purpose of entry is an abuse of the common travel area. There is a long-standing regulatory framework around the common travel area that has been agreed between the Irish Government and authorities and the authorities in the UK.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the immigration border control unit conducts immigration checks, both preventative and intelligence-led. This includes checkpoints and checks on public transport or other public service vehicles travelling from Northern Ireland, including on the Enterprise train. These checks have been conducted over a number of years in order to identify and prevent persons from illegally entering the jurisdiction in line with the requirements of sections 11 and 12 of the Immigration Act 2004 relating to documents of identity and supply of information and, in some cases, the production of documents.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
It is evident from the number of detections of illegal immigrants entering the State through Northern Ireland that immigration controls are required from time to time to prevent abuse of the common travel area. As of 31 October this year, 158 illegal immigrants had been detected attempting to enter the State in this way.
These checks are fully compatible with the Good Friday Agreement and common travel area arrangements and I am satisfied that An Garda Síochána and the UK authorities, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, continue to work together very closely to enhance and facilitate law enforcement and public safety in both jurisdictions.