The Government has been warned that an influx of “illegals” into the country post-Brexit could “sink” the asylum system and put massive pressures on other state services.
A Department of Justice briefing, prepared for Minister Charlie Flanagan, says any perceived tightening of UK immigration controls could see the “illegals” look across the Irish Sea instead.
The briefing was prepared after a Supreme Court judgment gave asylum seekers living in the direct provision system the right to work.
It states that in the UK, there is an estimated population of “illegal” nationals from outside the European Economic Area of between 400,000 and 800,000.
“Taking the mid-point of that range, even if only 1% were to come to Ireland and claim asylum, it would mean an additional 6,000 applicants,” it states.
“This would literally sink the asylum system putting massive pressures on other state services such as housing etc.”
The briefing warns that Brexit needs to be factored in and that even a “perception of a tightening” in UK immigration could see “illegals” look elsewhere.
The document explains how the common travel area between Ireland and the UK means it is important their immigration systems are “broadly similar”.
This avoids “creating pull factors” that could be taken advantage of by people moving from the UK to the North and then into the Republic.
“These concerns are not theoretical and we have seen specific situations where major difficulties have arisen, which can often take years to correct and which has major knock-on effects for various arms of the State.”
Three examples are given:
- The first saw a limited opening of the right to work of asylum seekers in 1999 lead to a “huge increase” in asylum claims;
- In 2015, the number of asylum applications in Ireland rose by a third, mostly from Pakistan and India.These were people who “either were illegal in the UK or whose immigration permission was about to run out there”.
The briefing states: “Many of these applicants used the asylum process to get a foothold in the State before attempting sham marriages etc.”
The department officials said the fallout of this is still being dealt with even after a crackdown on new applications of this type;
- The third scenario has been redacted under Freedom of Information laws.
The briefing says even “small changes and deviations” between Ireland and the UK in the asylum system could have an enormous impact.
“One critical point to note is that the impact on Ireland is hugely disproportionate because of our respective population size,” it said.