Ireland and France to liaise on tighter ferry port security
The Government is to consult with France over tightened security at ferry ports serving Ireland amid fears that Cork, Dublin and Rosslare could be targeted as a back door into the UK after Brexit.
Irish officials will speak with French authorities, with input from Europol and Interpol, amid concern over the ease with which 16 migrants managed to gain access to a sealed container loaded on to a Stena Line ferry travelling from Cherbourg to Rosslare.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan acknowledged concerns raised by Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan over security reviews and investment at Irish ports and airports, but insisted the issue was being examined.
However, Irish haulage groups warned that the security issue rests not in Ireland but in the European ports being targeted by migrants and smugglers.
A major security crackdown at Calais is feared to have persuaded migrants and human traffickers to target other French and Belgian ports.
Mr Flanagan said Ireland would be raising the matter with other EU member states.
"We need sufficient security to combat the scourge of human trafficking," he warned.
The minister denied Ireland was a so-called soft back door into the UK, but said he was concerned at such a threat depending on the implications of Brexit.
He insisted that Ireland would be working very closely with the UK and EU authorities to deal with any such security concerns.
It remains unclear whether Ireland, like the UK, will make a financial contribution to enhanced security at key French access ports to Ireland.
Britain agreed to pay €50m to France in a bid to improve security at Calais and reduce the number of migrants smuggled into the UK.
Mr Flanagan said a key move will be to maximise co-operation and intelligence sharing between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI.
"They need to work in a seamless way to ensure we don't have a border situation that is seen as easy to access," he warned.
The Government insisted that everything possible was being done to assist the 14 men and two teenagers.
The group, who were discovered in a healthy but hungry condition, are being accommodated in Dublin reception centres.
They are all believed to be of Kurdish ethnicity.
Gardai were told they fled to Europe from war-torn Kurdish homelands in Iran and Iraq as part of a month-long trek.
None is believed to be from Kurdish parts of northern Syria.
Fourteen of the all-male group are adults aged between their early 20s and late 40s.
There were also two 16-year-old boys, who have been ass-igned, as minors, to Tusla.
The 14 adults are expected to lodge formal asylum requests within the coming days.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) is working with other agencies to confirm the identities, ages and nationalities of the 16 individuals.
A senior garda source indicated that the group believed they were en route to the UK when they were discovered in the locked container by a Stena Line employee conducting a routine inspection of the freight deck.
The man became suspicious after hearing shouting and banging noises coming from inside the sealed container.
Because the ferry was less than seven hours from Rosslare when the discovery was made, the decision was taken to proceed to the Wexford port.
All 16 were given hot food and drinks by ferry staff in the vessel's lounge.
Gardai are working to determine precisely where the men and boys got access to the container, with suspicion falling on Cherbourg and a freight area in Belgium.
The garda investigation is being assisted by authorities in France, Belgium and Switzerland.