Fears Priti Patel's 'crazy' border bill could hit Derry health workers in Donegal

A senator has asked if people living in Donegal who work in Derry will be asked to produce visas under the terms of the British government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.

By Kevin Mullan
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 3:55 pm

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile raised the potential implications of the bill for non-Irish European Union and non-EU citizens living in the 26 counties.

He pointed out that there are 'tens of thousands of journeys made across the Border each day' and said that the 'Nationality and Borders Bill could be quite severe in its implications for their ability to freely move across this island.'

He asked if they will be deported under the strict new legislation if they don't have the correct papers.

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The border at Derry/Bridgend.

"This has the potential to impact on a range of aspects of people’s lives. I think of the healthcare sector, for example, and the range of non-Irish and non-British citizens who work in it.

"What will happen if someone living in Donegal who crosses the Border to go to work in Altnagelvin has a car accident and is asked by the PSNI to produce this particular visa? Will he or she be deported?" asked Senator Ó Donnghaile.

He also warned that there could also be implications for tourism.

"What will happen when we promote Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement internationally as a single unit for tourism? Are we going to tell the thousands of tourists we want to attract to this island to enjoy the benefits of it that they are going to need to apply for a travel waiver for a particular section of it? It is crazy.

Altnagelvin Hospital

"The proposed change has implications right across society and Irish life. While I find the nature, approach and intent of the legislation going through Westminster repugnant in terms of what it seeks to do to migrants and refugees, we must be acutely aware of the direct implications for the outworking of this on life in Ireland," said Senator Ó Donnghaile.

Fianna Fáil Minister of State Mary Butler, responding on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, said the Government is closely monitoring British Home Secretary Priti Patel' s new bill which passed in the House of Commons before Christmas and has now proceeded to the House of Lords.

"As currently drafted, the Nationality and Borders Bill would amend the UK's Immigration Act 1971 and potentially provide for a change in the UK's immigration rules, which may require that specified categories of individual - to be set down in the rules - have an electronic travel authorisation, ETA, in order to travel to the UK. This may include local journeys to the UK from within the common travel area, CTA, that is, travel from Ireland to Northern Ireland," she said.

Deputy Butler said the new ETA requirement would likely be introduced by way of future amendments to the UK's immigration rules and that London has spoken about the requirement coming into effect by the end of 2024.

She added that the bill will not affect Irish and British citizens who will not require any travel documents and that the UK Government has also made clear that there will continue to be no immigration checks on the land Border in Ireland.

But she said the government is concerned about the implications for people who call Ireland home but are not yet citizens.

"The Irish Government has several concerns regarding how the proposed ETA requirement, if introduced, would apply in the context of Northern Ireland, particularly regarding non-Irish and non-British nationals making local journeys across the land Border from Ireland into Northern Ireland.

"As the Senator will be aware, tens of thousands of people, including many non-Irish and non-British nationals living in Ireland, cross the Border every day as they go about their everyday lives visiting friends and family, going to work, studying, shopping and socialising. It is a shared space.

"There are also considerations in terms of supply chains and for tourism on an all-island basis, should this proposed legislation impact on any cross-Border movements for non-Irish and non-British nationals.

"Officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs are therefore engaging with the UK Government to outline these concerns and to seek clarification as to how it is proposed to apply this requirement in Northern Ireland and what changes are intended to be introduced in future immigration rules.

"I was privy to a report a couple of weeks ago which explained that 17% of people living in Ireland were not born here, but Ireland is their home. That is almost one in five. This would have a major effect on approximately one in five people who cross the Border on a daily basis for work, education, shopping or whatever else.

"The officials in the Department are therefore engaging with the UK Government to outline these concerns and to seek clarification as to how it is proposed to apply this requirement in Northern Ireland," she said.