Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said there are “difficulties” with some countries that will not take their own nationals back if they have been refused asylum.
The Taoiseach has come in for criticism from groups planning an anti-racism demonstration next weekend for saying that the EU needed to secure its borders and that Ireland should be “fair and firm and hard” on aspects of migration.
It comes after EU leaders met in Brussels last week to discuss how to respond to an increase in migration from outside Europe.
Mr Varadkar said on Sunday that Europe should be “hard” on criminal gangs that traffic people into the European Union and into Ireland.
“These are the people who create the fake IDs and tell migrants to destroy them so they can’t get caught – (it’s) one of the reasons why people are told to destroy the documents, because they are fake, in some cases,” he told RTE Radio.
“And these are people who put people in rafts in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean, hoping they’ll be picked up and not really caring if they die.
“And these are people who tell vulnerable people all around the world, that the streets of Europe are paved with gold and take their money to bring them to Europe and we are, as a country and as a European Union, going to have to be harder on trafficking.”
In response to an increase in irregular migration, he said there needed to be a “focus” on returning migrants who had been refused asylum-seeker status.
“We were discussing how we can work together as a European Union, one, to strengthen the external borders of the European Union, and two to also focus on returns because there are a number of countries that we’re running into difficulties with that won’t take their own nationals back when their applications for protection have been refused.
“And that’s that’s not right, that’s not fair.
“A country should take their own citizens back.
“The number of deportation orders that are actually affected is quite small, and often that is down to the fact that we’ve difficulty getting countries to accept their own nationals back and that’s a big problem,” he said.
Mr Varadkar suggested that a further 30-40,000 could arrive this year, and accepted that it’s “going to be very difficult” to provide accommodation to all those who require it.
Several calls for accommodation have been made to departments in recent months by Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman, and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said that student accommodation could be used during the summer as it was last year.
Mr Harris also said that the Department of Justice has met representatives of 19 airlines regarding travel documents, and that 964 fines of 1,500 euro were issued to airlines last year for people boarding planes without the correct documents.
“This is a compassionate country, but we also have rules and those rules are applied,” he said on The Week In Politics.
The Taoiseach said: “We need to be fair to people who need our protection, we’re not going to turn anyone away.
“We’ve accepted tens of thousands of people in the last year and provided them with shelter and accommodation, education for their kids, healthcare, education, opportunities to work.
“And we also need to have legal pathways to migration as well.
“Ireland is a country that you can come to as an economic migrant from outside the European Union.
“We issued 40,000 work permits last year, so we do have legal pathways to migration.
“But we do need to be firm, I believe, with people whose applications are rejected.
“And we need to say to people that if you’re going to come to Ireland with a false story or on false pretences, we will try to prevent you from entering in first place, and after that we will make sure that your application is dealt with quickly.”
He added: “I think people in Ireland understand that migration has been a good thing for our country.
“But they also want to know that migration is going to be properly managed, that there are controls, and I want to give people that reassurance that there is.
“I would say this very clearly, that migration is something that I think is a good thing for our country.
“It strengthens our economy.
“If you look at our public services, our health service, for example, wouldn’t function without people coming from overseas, and also it enriches our culture.”