20th December 2011
Ireland and the UK today signed an historic agreement reinforcing their commitment to preserving the Common Travel Area (CTA) while further cracking down on illegal immigration and spurious asylum claims.
The countries signed a statement working towards joint standards for entry and ultimately enhanced electronic border systems to identify those with no right to enter the CTA before they arrive at the border.
An accompanying memorandum will promote the exchange of information such as fingerprint biometrics and biographical details, particularly from ‘high risk’ countries, as part of the visa issuing process.
The data exchange will help prevent abuses of the CTA arrangement while protecting its long-established benefits of trade and tourism. The move could create considerable savings for both countries on removing foreign nationals with no right to stay.
Close co-operation in the run-up to the agreement has already brought significant benefits. A pilot exchange to check data provided in 1,700 Irish visa applications lodged in Nigeria against UK immigration records has identified over 200 persons applying to come to Ireland who have an adverse UK immigration history. A considerable number of these were either deported from the UK or refused entry into the UK.
Additionally, so far this year data swaps have shown that of 1,500 failed asylum claims made in Ireland nearly 500 have been identified as being known to the UK Border Agency - either as asylum shoppers with previous asylum applications to the UK or as visa applicants, and usually in a different name and nationality to that declared in Ireland.
And thanks to joint working an immigration fraudster was caught with a bundle of fake identities after his ‘zig zag’ route across four countries flagged him to UK Border Agency officers in Belfast. Another Nigerian applicant was refused entry into Ireland after comparison with documents which shown he had previously been removed from the UK in 2008 and that the passport had been tampered with.
The Joint Statement and the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding on visa data exchange was signed by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, T.D. and UK Immigration Minister, Damien Green, M.P., in Dublin today.
Minister Shatter said:
"The Common Travel Area is an important feature of the close relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom which both countries share a common interest in protecting and enhancing.
"Today’s agreement provides a platform for greater cooperation on immigration matters, including joint action to protect the CTA from abuse by preventing potential immigration offenders from travelling to Ireland and the UK.
"Working more closely together to preserve the integrity of the CTA also allows us to harness its potential to deliver economic and tourism benefits, an example being the Irish Visa Waiver Programme which was launched earlier this year.
Minister Green said:
"This agreement will help us quickly refuse those with poor immigration records, identify asylum shoppers and speed up the removal process in those cases where people have entered the Common Travel Area.
"The benefits the CTA brings to travellers and the economies of our countries are well-established but it should not be exploited by those with no right to be here."
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Common Travel Area (CTA) comprises Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The CTA came into being in the 1920s and is based on the principle of free movement for nationals of the UK and Ireland.
The CTA reflects ties of history and kinship and also labour market and business needs. It continues to be of immense importance to the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of both jurisdictions.