It will be “a challenge” to catch people illegally entering the UK from the Republic of Ireland who have not signed up to a new travel scheme, a Home Office official has admitted. An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is a requirement for people who do not need a visa to come to the UK.

The programme is being extended to nationals of all countries, but will not apply to Irish citizens because they have a right to travel to any part of the UK under the Common Travel Area. Simon Bond, a senior director in the Home Office, was questioned by the House of Lords’ Justice and Home Affairs Committee about enforcement.

Committee member Lord Sandhurst asked Mr Bond about a scenario in which he was a foreign national of “villainous intent” who enters the Republic of Ireland and could “just hop on a plane to London” despite not having an ETA.

He added: “I may be committing a criminal offence, but how are your lot and the security people going to know that I have done this?”

In his answer, Mr Bond admitted “that is certainly a challenge”, adding: “The overall intent is to understand as much as possible about everyone coming to the UK, in order to upstream all of those checks.”

Lord Sandhurst responded: “If I’m on a wicked mission for Mr Putin (Russian president Vladimir Putin) carrying dangerous poisons, that would be my route in, wouldn’t it?”

Mr Bond did not reply. The ETA scheme was introduced in November 2023, but is currently only for nationals of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

It is scheduled to be extended to include the European Union, the European Economic Area and Swiss nationals from early 2025 and the rest of the world this autumn. Lord Dubs suggested to immigration minister Tom Pursglove it is “not a very satisfactory position” that a tourist from a third country visiting the Republic of Ireland will be committing a criminal offence if they cross into Northern Ireland without an ETA. The peer asked the minister “how are you going to enforce this?” given there are no immigration controls at the land border.

Source link