US TOURISTS travelling north from the Republic could be detained at the border under the Tories’ proposed asylum laws, according to an independent human rights group.
A briefing paper from the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), warns that unless exemptions are introduced for the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, visitors to the north who cross the border without the correct paperwork could be “removed”, detained in holding facility, or even sent to Rwanda.
SDLP MP Claire Hanna said that “in combination” with the proposed Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system, the legislation currently progressing throughWestminster “presents a major potential challenge for this island”.
The South Belfast representative warned that “visitors will face a lot of red tape and potentially be subject to the draconian provisions in this bill”.
The CAJ paper notes that without “some sort of exemption”, the British government bill would mean a “duty to arbitrarily‘remove’ people entering the UK unlawfully”.
It says the legislation, which experts argue is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), would “capture” those who require a visa to enter the UK, or non-visa nationals who in future would require an ETA, such as a US tourist who lands in Dublin but travels north.
The paper notes that visa nationals entering Northern Ireland have always been required to comply with UK immigration rules and therefore always risked penalties for unlawful entry.
“However, the reason that this development is particularly concerning is the extremity of the penalties associated with it,” the CAJ say.
The strict measures associated with the Tories’ latest bill include being unable to challenge the decision to be detained by judicial review and no permission to apply for bail until 28 days have passed.
The paper warns of a “high risk of racial profiling” where immigration officers suspect the individual in question meets the conditions set out in the legislation.
It says this could result in “potentially indefinite detention in GB, without recourse to judicial review, and the potential to be removed to a third country like Rwanda”.
“The idea that this could happen to say, a Kenyan national resident in Donegal who travels to Derry to shop and encounters immigration enforcement, is extremely concerning,” the CAJ say.
“It is also farcical that this could happen to say, an American national who travels from Dublin to see the Giant’s Causeway without an ETA, and encounters immigration enforcement.”
Ms Hanna told The Irish News that the bill was “wrong in both principle and practice”.
“It is immoral to criminalise asylum seekers at a stroke, without offering any safe or legal route,” she said.
“It also presents major potential challenge for this island in combination with the promised ETA system.”
The SDLP MP said that while progress through exemptions had been achieved for people living on this island who aren’t Irish or British, there was “no agreed solution to protect our tourism sector”
“At present some 70 per cent of international travellers arrive via Dublin, so unless the UK government see sense and offer an exemption, those visitors will face a lot of red tape and potentially be subject to the draconian provisions in this bill,” she said.
“It is yet another symptom of a government that doesn’t adequately consider or understand this island”