PLANS to impose a biometric data border on Fermanagh have been described as “far-removed” from reality.
Next year, non-Irish EU citizens will have to submit biometric fingerprint and facial data under the British government’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme if they wish to cross into Fermanagh and other border counties from the Republic of Ireland.
The UK Minister of Immigration, Robert Jenrick, told Parliament last week: “Applicants will be required to submit their biometrics. At the outset, however, we will only require facial images from ETA applicants, until such time as there is a technological solution which will allow them to self-upload fingerprints of the required quality, as we will not require them to visit a visa application centre to give their fingerprints.”
However, the proposal has caused consternation with political representatives on both sides of the Irish border with one being Matt Carthy who is the Sinn Fein TD for Cavan-Monaghan.
He said: “These plans from the British government, once again, outline how far-removed the decision-makers are in Westminster with the reality of life in the Irish border region.
“To suggest to people who might be living or working at the south of the border would need to have biometric data in order to travel into Fermanagh and the rest of the North is nonsensical.
“This proposal fails to recognise that people living on either side of the border may need to get to the other side to work and come back home again. Not to mention other common practical difficulties that would emerge on day one of this proposal being implemented.
“There are routes – like Newtonbutler to Clones – where you can cross the border a number of times before arriving at your destination.
“This bureaucratic obstacle would be put in the way of people who have every right to be on the island of Ireland but be prevented from entering one part to another, solely at the whim of a very aggressive British government. That would be entirely unacceptable.
“Those in Westminster give absolutely zero consideration to those living in Ireland – be they in the North or the South.”
Brendan Smith, who is also a TD for Cavan-Monaghan, called the legislation “unacceptable” and warned of the implications it would cause for tourism within Fermanagh and the South.
He added: “Since 1998 the economy has grown on a cross border basis with a huge increase in trade and enterprise contributing to All Ireland economic development and this has necessitated movement of people and goods freely throughout this country.
“We market Ireland as one unit for tourism purposes and difficulties would arise for people such as those visitors from the USA crossing the border.”
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