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'I was scared': migrants choose Dublin tents over UK's Rwanda deportation

By AFP

May 1, 2024 06:10 PM


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Asylum seekers sleeping rough in tents in Dublin say life under tarpaulin cover is better and safer than facing the risk of being deported by the UK to Rwanda.

As the UK government readies to start deporting migrants to Rwanda, some in the Irish capital say they arrived in recent days from the British province of Northern Ireland.

"I was so scared because maybe they will send us to Rwanda," Mohammed, a migrant from Afghanistan, told AFP outside the International Protection Office which handles asylum applications in Ireland.

Mohammed, 25, said he boarded a ferry from Liverpool in northwest England to Belfast in Northern Ireland on Sunday before traveling to Dublin by bus.

"Now I don't know what to do, there are no shelters, nothing, but at least I can feel safe," he said Tuesday, shortly after applying to the office.

The number of tents outside the building has grown to more than 100 in recent months after the Irish government stopped providing automatic accommodation to asylum seekers amid a worsening housing crisis and rising anti-immigration sentiment.

The authorities began another operation to clear the tents Wednesday and transfer those waiting to better accommodation, with toilets, showers, indoor areas providing food, and round-the-clock security.

For desperate migrants like Mohammed, living in a tent is the least-worst option.

 'Not safe' 

"Back home it is all Taliban. If they send us to Rwanda I can't feel safe in the UK," he said.

"Why did I leave my country Afghanistan if they are going to send me over there?"

The controversial UK law, which has come under fire from the United Nations and rights groups, enables Britain to expel undocumented migrants to Rwanda, where they would be allowed to remain if their asylum applications are successful. They would not be allowed to return to Britain.

Lucas, an asylum-seeker from Nigeria who like Mohammed did not want to give his second name, said there had been an influx of arrivals from Northern Ireland in recent days "because of the Rwanda bill".

"Rwanda is not safe," he said, adding that he flew to Belfast before catching a bus south.

Last week Ireland's Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that more than 80 percent of those applying for asylum in the republic had come over the land border with Northern Ireland.

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin clarified Monday that the figure covered the "last year or two" and represented a shift away from migrants arriving at Irish ports and airports and claiming asylum there.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has claimed this is evidence that his government's contentious Rwanda plan is acting as a deterrent.

Ireland's prime minister Simon Harris has warned that Dublin would take action to stem the influx, including deporting asylum seekers to the UK.

Ireland would not, he said, let other countries use it as a "loophole" for their immigration policy.

But that has created a row with London, which insists that it will not accept returns from Ireland because European Union countries do not accept asylum seekers the UK wants to return there post-Brexit.

  'Passing the buck' 

 Irish media reported Monday that some 100 police will be deployed for "immigration enforcement duties" at the border with Northern Ireland.

Border infrastructure -- a frequent flashpoint in the three-decade sectarian conflict over British rule in Northern Ireland -- was removed as part of a 1998 peace deal.

Lucas said it was "good news" that the UK, which has yet to forcibly deport anyone to Rwanda, would not accept returns.

"We heard that the Irish want to send people back to the UK but that is not going to work, we are here to stay!" he added.

Amir Zeb, 39, from Pakistan, has camped outside the International Protection Office for a month and said the threat of being sent to Rwanda was a deterrent to staying in the UK.

"The UK asylum seeker people are coming to Ireland as people think that Ireland is better than the Rwanda life maybe," said Zeb, who traveled directly to Ireland from Bahrain.

"Rwanda seems like Pakistan or Afghanistan. It is a poor country like us, there is no facility or human rights," he said.

For Frank Harrison a pensioner walking by the site, Sunak's comments showed that the UK is "exporting" migrants.

"England is passing the buck, they are happy for them to come to Ireland," he said, looking at the long rows of tents.


AFP


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