Prime Minister Sunak 'not interested' in asylum seeker returns from Ireland

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ruled out a migrant return scheme with the Ireland or the EU, amid an escalating row over increasing numbers of asylum seekers entering the Republic from Northern Ireland.

Irish courts have refused to allow the return of asylum seekers to the UK as they ruled the PM's controversial scheme breaches international law.

The Irish Government has claimed the number of asylum seekers crossing from Northern Ireland is now “higher than 80%” due to a shift in migration patterns in recent months.

However, that figure has been questioned by human rights and refugee organisations.

The Taoiseach said the figure was based on the number of people registering at the International Protection Office (IPO) in Dublin.

The issue was discussed by the UK and Irish governments at high-level talks in London on Monday. Mr Sunak told ITV News: "I'm very confident that our scheme is compliant with all our international obligations and I make absolutely no apology for doing everything I can to tackle illegal migration." The prime minister doubled down on the government's stance that it rejects any bid by Ireland to "return" asylum seekers to the UK unless France agrees to do the same with boats crossing the English Channel.

Mr Sunak has said the increase showed that the UK’s Rwanda plan is working as a deterrent - but Irish ministers are expected to discuss emergency legislation on Tuesday that would see asylum seekers returned to the UK.

The PM told ITV News "we're not interested" in a returns scheme. "We're not going to accept returns from the EU via Ireland when the EU doesn't accept returns back to France where illegal migrants are coming from," he continued. "Of course we're not going to do that. I'm determined to get the Rwanda scheme up and running because I want a deterrent.... And I'm confident that it will work." Taoiseach Simon Harris said on Sunday that Ireland won’t “provide a loophole” for other countries’ migration “challenges”. Mr Harris also said that “close” collaboration and cooperation between the British and Irish governments was “not just desirable, but absolutely essential”.

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