Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said the Government will act to stop British holidaymakers “abusing” the Common Travel Area to avoid quarantine measures in the UK.
Mr Coveney’s comments came as it emerged hundreds of passengers travelling from the Middle East are using Ireland as a backdoor into Britain.
Irish and British citizens can still move between the two countries due to freedom of movement rules set out in the Common Travel Area.
“If that’s been abused by UK citizens coming back from other parts of the world to try to take advantage of that issue then we will close that door by ensuring that there is communications with airlines and with UK authorities to make sure that they know exactly where people are coming from through our airports,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ Radio One’s This Week.
Irish passengers are not required to have a negative Covid-19 test to enter Britain and are also not required to quarantine on arrival.
However, Act now: British passengers do need to have a test to enter Ireland and are now asked to quarantine at home for two weeks or until they get a negative Covid-19 test after five days.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned all flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an attempt to stop the spread of new Covid-19 variants.
The Sunday Independent reported a major increase in passengers flying into Dublin since the ban was introduced with extra flights being put on by airlines to deal with the demand.
Anyone arriving into Britain from the UAE is required to self-isolate for 10 days. However they can avoid questioning by UK immigration authorities by travelling from Dublin.
Mr Coveney said he is open to sharing passenger data on people travelling from Dublin into Britain with the British government.
However, he said there would need to be a “consistent approach” to how any new measures on international travel are introduced and said the World Health Organisation has said passengers transiting through airports “do not represent a risk”.
“If UK citizens are travelling from other parts of the world through Dublin as a transit airport into the UK because they can’t fly directly into the UK, that’s no different to Irish citizens doing that – flying through London into Ireland from other parts of the world where they don’t have direct flights so I think it’s important that we’re consistent here,” he added.
Meanwhile, gardaí will begin traffic checks near the Border to stop people travelling from the North to the Republic for non-essential purposes.
The Government has given gardaí the power to tell drivers to return to Northern Ireland if they do not have an a valid reason for crossing the Border or are not an essential worker.
The move has been seized upon by unionist politicians who say it shows a hard border can be introduced on the island of Ireland.
Democratic Unionist Party MP Gavin Robinson said the Garda checks showed Ireland can “enforce a north-south border when it suits”.
“This is a bit awkward for Simon Coveney and the ‘no hard border’ sledgehammer brigade.
“Seems like the Republic of Ireland Government is taking a decent go at hardening the existing international border between their country and Northern Ireland.
“The Border deniers will have been left scratching their heads on this one.”
Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie said the Garda move was “a game-changer”.
“We have been told for four and a half years that not only can we not have a hard border, we cannot have a single camera on the Border,” he said.
“Within the past week we have seen that the EU is prepared to instigate a hard border and today we find the Garda are ready, willing and able to secure the Border from 7am on Monday.
“This is an absolute game-changer and means that the entire Brexit negotiations took place under false pretences. Given the fiasco that the protocol has turned out to be, it is now time to reassess the situation.”
Matthew O’Toole MLA, the SDLP’s Brexit spokesman, denied claims the move amounts to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Gardaí are enforcing rules on non-essential travel, as they are also doing between counties in the Republic. It is clearly not a hard border. Constantly amping up misinformation like this helps no one,” he said.
— to www.independent.ie