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The UK and Ireland to improve the Common Travel Area
20 December 2011
The UK and Ireland have signed an important agreement reinforcing their commitment to preserving the Common Travel Area (CTA) while further cracking down on illegal immigration and spurious asylum claims.
The CTA is the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. People travelling within the CTA do not generally need to carry a passport or national identity document for immigration purposes.
Immigration Minister Damian Green today signed a memorandum of understanding in Dublin with Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter towards joint standards for entry and ultimately enhanced electronic border systems to identify those with no right to enter the CTA before they arrive at the border.
An accompanying memorandum will promote the exchange of information, such as fingerprint biometrics and biographical details, particularly from 'high risk' countries, as part of the visa issuing process.
The data exchange will help prevent abuses of the CTA arrangement, while protecting its long-established benefits of trade and tourism. The move could create considerable savings for both countries when removing foreign nationals with no right to stay.
Close cooperation in the run-up to the agreement has already brought significant benefits. So far this year data swaps have shown that, of 1,516 failed asylum claims made in Ireland, nearly 500 have been identified as being known to the UK Border Agency - either as 'asylum shoppers' with previous asylum applications to the UK or as visa applicants.
Additionally, a pilot exchange of data provided in 1,700 Irish visa applications lodged in Nigeria, has identified over 200 people applying to come to Ireland who have an adverse UK immigration history. A considerable number of these either deported from the UK or refused entry into the UK.
Thanks to joint working, an immigration fraudster was caught with a bundle of fake identities after his 'zig zag' route across 4 countries flagged him to UK Border Agency officers in Belfast. Another Nigerian applicant was refused entry into Ireland after checks on documents showed he had previously been removed from the UK in 2008 and that the passport had been tampered with.
Damian Green said:
'This agreement will help us quickly refuse those with poor immigration records, identify asylum shoppers and speed up the removal process in those cases where people have entered the Common Travel Area.
'The benefits the CTA brings to travellers and the economies of our countries are well-established but it should not be exploited by those with no right to be here.'
Alan Shatter said:
'The Common Travel Area is an important feature of the close relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom, which both countries share a common interest in protecting and enhancing.
'Today's agreement provides a platform for greater cooperation on immigration matters, including joint action to protect the CTA from abuse by preventing potential immigration offenders from travelling to Ireland and the UK.
'Working more closely together to preserve the integrity of the CTA also allows us to harness its potential to deliver economic and tourism benefits, an example being the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, which was launched earlier this year.'