The STAD Coalition is deeply concerned by remarks made by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, regarding asylum applicants arriving in Ireland from the United Kingdom via Northern Ireland, at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting on Tuesday 23rd April. The Minister has been reported as saying that over eighty per cent of people applying for asylum in Ireland travel from the UK and arrive in the Republic of Ireland via the border from Northern Ireland.

 We are concerned that this statement does not appear to be backed by clear data. In fact, the Irish Times reports that the Department of Justice says that numbers coming across the border are not routinely monitored. To correlate, as the Minister appears to have done, the numbers who do not apply for international protection at a port of entry with numbers arriving through the Northern Irish border is unsound and not based on the actual experiences of international protection applicants in Ireland. 

Our organisations who work with international protection applicants every day could provide many examples of why an international protection applicant might not seek asylum initially at port of arrival, from fear of being ‘turned around’ and sent back at the airport to becoming a refugee sur place. 

 As the Oireachtas considers the EU Migration Pact over the coming days and weeks and, as local and European elections approach, it is more important than ever that our conversations around international protection are careful, accurate and reasoned. 

It is worrying that this statement from the Minister is likely to further inflame anti-migrant sentiment. We urge all political representatives to move away from damaging, sensationalist rhetoric and to prioritise humane, evidence-based conversations and policies regarding immigration in Ireland.