As the U.K. Tries Moving Asylum Seekers Offshore, Ireland Pushes Back

Britain’s newly ratified plan to put asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda has drawn objections from human rights groups, British and European courts, the House of Lords and even some members of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party.

To that list, add another aggrieved party: Ireland.

The Irish government said last week that asylum seekers in Britain who fear being deported to Rwanda are instead traveling to Ireland. It is drafting emergency legislation to send them back to Britain, triggering a clash with its neighbor, which said it would refuse to accept them.

Irish officials estimate that 80 percent of recent applicants for asylum crossed into the country via Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and with which the Republic of Ireland has an open border. That suggests that Britain’s vow to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is already having something of a deterrent effect, which was Mr. Sunak’s sales pitch for the policy.

But it comes at the expense of Ireland, which is already struggling to absorb an influx of refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere, and has seen violent clashes over immigration erupt in small towns and major cities. On Sunday, Ireland’s prime minister, Simon Harris, said, “This country will not in any way, shape or form provide a loophole for anybody else’s migration challenges.”

“Other countries can decide how they wish to advance migration,” said Mr. Harris, who became prime minister earlier this month. “From an Irish perspective, we intend to have a firm rules-based system where rules are in place, where rules are in force, where rules are seen to be enforced.”

Anti-immigration protesters marching through Dublin’s city center, in early February.Credit…Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times
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