No, Brexit Britain did not cause Ireland’s migrant crisis

The Irish elites are shamelessly trying to deflect the blame for a disaster of their own making.

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Brexit Politics World

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Apparently, nasty Brexit Britain is to blame for Ireland’s migrant crisis. That’s the gist of the Irish government’s argument in its ongoing diplomatic row with the UK over migrant flows between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It’s a quite remarkable claim. It seems we’re expected to believe that the refugee tent city that’s sprung up in central Dublin, the hotels across Ireland filled with desperate asylum claimants and the growing, sometimes violent protests against immigration are all down to perfidious Albion. The Tories’ dastardly Rwanda policy, in particular, has been singled out for blame.

This row kicked off last Tuesday, when Helen McEntee, Ireland’s hapless minister of justice, faced the Oireachtas justice committee. There she claimed that, in the past month, over 80 per cent of asylum seekers in Ireland are believed to be coming across the border with Northern Ireland and the UK. Apparently, Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and resettlement is driving those who entered the UK illegally to seek refuge in Ireland – the land, it now seems, of very few welcomes.

The day after McEntee’s claim, Irish foreign minister Micheál Martin went even further. He claimed Ireland has been receiving more and more incomers ever ‘since the first iteration and publication of that strategy around Rwanda [two years ago]’. You heard that right. The Rwanda policy, widely predicted to be spectacularly ineffective in stopping the small-boats crisis in the English Channel, has supposedly had a huge effect on Ireland, fuelling its migrant crisis for two years. No wonder British PM Rishi Sunak took Martin’s complaint as a back-handed compliment. He claimed on Sky News on Sunday that it showed the Rwanda scheme really was working to deter migrants from settling in Britain.

Sunak shouldn’t get too excited, though. The idea that Britain’s Rwanda policy is responsible for Ireland’s migrant crisis is absurd. By making this claim, the Irish political class is merely trying to pass the buck for problems entirely of its own making. It’s a blatant attempt to deflect public anger away from its own overriding role in what is fast becoming a social disaster.

After all, it wasn’t the British government that presided over Ireland’s unprecedented levels of immigration in recent decades – with new arrivals reaching a 16-year high of 140,000 in the year to April 2023. It wasn’t the British government that kept the border open to more and more people, despite Ireland’s chronic housing crisis. It certainly wasn’t the British government that established Ireland’s utterly dysfunctional asylum system, leaving it with one of the longest backlogs of asylum claims in Europe.

No, these are the sorry achievements of Ireland’s own political leaders. They have flung open the borders while arrogantly ignoring the concerns of their own citizens and failing to develop the structures needed to welcome and integrate the newcomers. They have happily basked in the virtue of being pro-migration, while hopelessly mismanaging the resulting influx.

The handling of asylum seekers is a stark case in point. Unable to process the growing number of applications and lacking any proper accommodation (hence the appearance of a refugee encampment in the capital city itself), the Irish government has been moving thousands of asylum applicants into some of the most impoverished communities in Ireland, taking over nearby hotels, leisure facilities and other makeshift forms of accommodation. Worse still, it has been doing so over locals’ heads. As one resident of Rosslare Harbour, who was protesting against the housing of asylum seekers in his local area, told the Irish Times in December: ‘There are no services here. There is nothing for them to do or nowhere for them to work. There’s very little in the community.’

The mishandling of asylum claimants has stirred up considerable resentment among Irish people in recent years – some of which has been exploited by far-right elements. There have been protest marches, blockades of migrant hotels and, most shamefully, firebomb and arson attacks on prospective migrant accommodation centres. There was also the small matter of that riot in Dublin last November. Earlier this week, protests against the rehousing of Dublin’s refugee encampment in the village of Newtownmountkennedy turned violent. Villagers set fire to one of the buildings designated for migrants and threw stones at Gardai. This is the context for the Irish government’s recent posturing against Britain. It is now under incredible pressure to be seen to be doing something.

The hypocrisy of all this is breathtaking on so many levels. Ever since Brits voted to leave the EU in 2016, Irish elites have enjoyed portraying the UK as a xenophobic, ultra-nationalist statelet, crazily obsessed with controlling its borders. Just over a month ago, the Irish High Court stated that Britain is no longer a ‘safe’ place for migrants, given the risk they might be sent on to Rwanda. Cue much smug, morally superior jeering towards Brexit Britain from the Irish well-to-do (as well as from Britain’s own Remainer-ish elites). Yet now, faced by the problems caused by its own catastrophically mishandled approach to migration, the Irish government is trying to overturn its own High Court’s ruling, and return migrants to Britain. Apparently, none of the liberal intelligentsia’s complaints about the Rwanda policy breaking international law, or affronting humanitarian values, matters anymore. (In any case, the British government has ignored Ireland’s pleas to take back the migrants.)

More hypocritical still, it seems Irish politicians have now decided that they don’t mind if there’s a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Funny that. During Britain’s negotiations over its exit from the EU, Irish elites attacked the prospect of any sort of border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as unconscionable. Even having the odd customs check would be a threat to the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Ireland, they said. Yet now the Irish government has sent Gardai to help police the border. It’s as if the Northern Irish border was only ever important to them as a weapon in the fight against Brexit.

The double standards here are revealing. They capture the cynical virtue-signalling of Ireland’s pro-EU elites, and their utter estrangement from the public. Faced by the consequences of their appalling handling of migration, they perform shameless reverse ferrets. They have gone from posturing about open borders to trying to deport migrants to the supposed hellscape of ‘unsafe’ Britain. They now even want a harder border between north and south.

There’s only one thing that remains consistent. They are still raging at and posturing against Brexit Britain. It seems that’s all they have left.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Brexit Politics World


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