UK and Ireland 'strengthening' Common Travel Area

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The United Kingdom and Ireland may introduce passport checks between their borders; this will be the first time since shortly after Ireland gained its independence.

The Common Travel Area (CTA) was implemented in 1925 and encompasses the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Citizens of CTA countries are allowed to move between their borders without immigration checks.

The UK and Ireland have released a proposal on 'strengthening the Common Travel Area', according to the UK Home Office, by introducing full immigration controls for non-CTA citizens as well as tightening ID checks on CTA citizens.

"Movement without immigration controls for nationals of the CTA is important in the special relationship which exists between the peoples of these islands, and provides long established political, economic and social benefits," said UK Immigration Minister Liam Byrne in a policy document.

"However, the CTA was formed many decades ago and so, as promised last year we have, in close partnership with the Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the Crown dependencies, developed proposals for reform," he added.

Byrne laid out four proposed changes:

  • Full immigration controls of non-CTA citizens on sea and air routes by 2014
  • New measures for identifying CTA citizens on sea and air routes
  • Monitoring all air travel between the UK and Ireland by 2009 and sea travel by 2010 through its new e-Borders initiative
  • The introduction of Carrier's Liability on air and sea routes

The tightening of security arrangements in the Common Travel Area may come after increasing worries over terrorism and other border security concerns. While Byrne tried to play down fears over strict land-based immigration controls between Ireland and the UK, non-CTA nationals moving between land borders could become targets for random checks.

"We are clear that we will not introduce fixed immigration controls on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or on traffic from the Crown dependencies to the UK," Byrne said. "However, mirroring activity in the Republic of Ireland, the UK will consider increasing ad hoc immigration checks on vehicles in order to target non-CTA nationals on the Northern Ireland side of the land border."