By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Ireland cannot be a haven for those who are pretending to be refugees, according to new Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who said that it is a fundamental right and duty of a sovereign state to control access to its territory.
In what is being regarded as a signal he will take a tough line on immigration, the minister said the country could not invite the “huddled masses of the world to migrate here at will.”
Writing in the Sunday Independent, he said Irish people must be able to distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants who might be trying to skip the queue.
The minister warned against political correctness and what he regards as “breathtaking ambivalence.” He said the issue can not be allowed to be lost in a sea of the rhetoric of compassion.
“Our legal obligation to give refuge to asylum seekers who come here fleeing persecution is matched by an equally clear legal and political imperative to deny access to those who break our laws by pretending to be refugees when in fact they are economic migrants who are queue jumping,” he wrote.
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No country, he said, could afford to throw open its borders to all comers.
He said it might be uncomfortable for some people to make a distinction between refugees and economic migrants.
“It is much more politically correct to ignore that distinction,” he said. “It certainly suits a particular mindset to blur that distinction or to drown it completely in the rhetoric of compassion.”
“This is an issue on which it is very easy to pose much more difficult to dispose. This is an issue in which the stakes are very high.
“Getting it wrong or not dealing with the issue at all could have very grave consequences.”