Hundreds of immigration offences have been recorded at Northern Irish ports over the past year, with annual suspect detentions rising by two-thirds.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that 775 suspects were detained at ports such as Belfast, Londonderry, Larne, and Warrenpoint in 2015/16 – a year-on-year increase of 66 per cent.
Police Service Northern Ireland Detective Chief Superintendent Hugh Hume commented that “none of the arrests or detentions are necessarily directly linked” to the Brexit vote in June 2016.
“It tends to be a number of people from outside the European Union who are detained, and people who have been deported from the United Kingdom and are attempting to regain entry.”
The UK and Ireland are, with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, part of a long-established Common Travel Area.
Fears that Ireland was being used as a “back door” to the UK by previously banned or deported Islamist radicals resulted in the two countries signing an agreement to share information on blacklisted suspects in 2015.
In the year prior to the agreement, some 350 non-EU nationals, including individuals deemed to be security risks, subject to banning orders or held to be career criminals were refused permission to enter Ireland due to suspicions that they intended to continue to the UK illegally – an annual increase of 24 per cent.
The UK government has signalled its intention to maintain the Common Travel Area after Brexit. It hopes to establish UK border controls at Irish ports in a Calais-style arrangement to better police external migration.
Previous proposals to require individuals travelling between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland by air or sea to carry a passport or identity card were defeated by the House of Lords in 2009. Unionists in Northern Ireland feared the proposal was part of a wider plot by the then Labour government to work towards “getting rid of them, out of the United Kingdom”.