English racists seek to shut Irish border to Ukrainians


The Dublin government has rejected English calls to ‘close the Irish Border’ over its decision to offer asylum to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

Reports in the Tory media had expressed concern that Ireland could be used as a route for Ukrainians to flee the conflict to Britain. Under Common Travel Area rules, travel takes place freely between the two countries without passport checks.

Despite intense global outrage over Russian war crimes in Ukraine such as the destruction on Wednesday of a maternity ward and a children’s ward, Britain’s Home Office has been maintaining tough deterrents against Ukrainian refugees.

Home Office Minister Priti Patel has yielded to pressure by far-right elements to strictly limit the numbers of refugees entering Britain. While 18,000 have applied for refuge in Britain, only 300 have yet been offered the necessary visa to enter the jurisdiction.

In contrast, and in common with other EU nations, Ireland has offered visa-free sanctuary, and some 2,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in the 26 Counties. Around two-thirds of those who arrived so far have family connections in Ireland, and one-third are children.

British government officials have been expressing concern that their arrival “could pose a security risk” to Britain. One official reportedly made a comparison with Albanians who they said had entered Britain via Belfast and had “created a drug cartel route”.

At a press conference on Tuesday, 26 County Minister Eamon Ryan denied the concerns were legitimate. He pointed out there had been an open border throughout the depth of Covid-19 pandemic, and that was not going to change due to the arrival of refugees in Ireland.

He said any genuine security concerns could be resolved with “good sharing of information”.

“We’re not going to shut the Border... I think the UK government are going to understand this in the same way we understand when it was coming the other way with the pandemic, that the best way is not to shut the Border but to make sure you share information and that gives confidence and security.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he “regrets” the British government’s current position on accepting Ukrainian refugees, but said Ireland was making “the right decisions” by making it easier for them to arrive here, in line with the EU approach.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said there was no doubt that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia had created a strong desire in Irish people to help.

“There is no doubt that we should not stand idly by,” he said. “We should be actively agitating for peace. I see no evidence of this by the government.

“Also, there is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis unfolding before us. We have in no way exhausted the help that is needed or that we can provide. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is needed.

“Before we consider providing lethal force, surely we must ensure that hospitals have the medicine they need, that food, water and heat are provided to those fleeing and that we provide a shelter for those seeking refuge.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the figure of 100,000 refugees being speculated by members of the government was “a huge scale of people seeking refuge”.

“The question arises, how our system, that’s already stretched can accommodate a challenge like this, where will these refugees live, what’s the accommodation plan,” she said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin insisted “every effort” would be made by the 26 County “to do what we can” and for “work to be done to create accommodation”.

“We no longer have the luxury to be saying we can’t have this development over there or that development over there, the crisis is going to be so big in my view that we will have to pull out all the stops as quickly as we can as a society and as a Government to do it.”

* The Dublin government, alongside the Red Cross, have launched a new portal where Irish people can make offers of support and accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. It is online at https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie

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