The Government is to introduce routine passport checks for air and sea passengers travelling between the Republic and Britain under a massive shake-up of border controls.
The Belfast Telegraph says that road blocks will not be introduced along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Home Office insisted. Instead the UK Borders Agency will focus on intelligence-led operations to keep a check people entering the UK through the Republic.
The move spells the end of the historic agreement that allows people to travel freely around the Common Travel Area, which covers the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.
The plans, led by fears the border is exploited by organised crime and people traffikers, are outlined in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, published this week.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“This is in recognition that criminal organisations bringing drugs in to the UK are using the Republic.
“I want to reassure people from Northern Ireland that their rights will not be infringed.
“This is about people coming in to the UK and the Republic of Ireland from overseas.
“All parties have been consulted and this will be discussed in parliament.”
Last month Bill Hughes, director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the head of the UK’s FBI-style crime squad, warned MPs that criminals were using the Republic as an easy route into the UK.
Because Northern Ireland is the only land border with an EU country in the UK, people traffikers and smugglers use it to beat law enforcement agencies.
Over 15 million people travel between the Republic and Britain by plane or ferry every year, but by 2014 they will have to show their passport or ID card on arrival at airports and ferry terminals.
Thousands of migrant workers and students, from The Philippines and India and other countries, currently travel freely between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the mainland without the need for entry clearance.
The majority of airlines operating between England and Ireland (for instance RyanAir and Easyjet) already require sight of a passport, as they do for domestic flights.