Human rights commissions call for Common Travel Area to be put on firmer legal basis

Human rights commissions call for Common Travel Area to be put on firmer legal basis

Human rights commissions on both sides of the Irish border have called for a new UK-Ireland treaty to protect the smooth operation of the Common Travel Area (CTA) after Brexit.

The joint committee of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published new research carried out by academics at Newcastle University, Durham University and the University of Birmingham.

The research concludes that the CTA is currently “written in sand, and its terms are much more limited than is often believed to be the case”, and would benefit from greater legal certainty.

It recommends that the Irish and UK governments should look to secure a “gold standard” approach through a new intergovernmental Common Travel Area treaty, which formalise common immigration rules, travel rights, residency rights, and related rights to education, social security, work, health and security and justice.

The report also makes 20 separate recommendations which could be implemented to ensure smoother operation of the CTA, including on the need for the governments to act on cross-border healthcare; on the need for a taskforce to monitor impediments to cross-border working; and on contingency planning for PSNI/An Garda Síochána justice cooperation in the absence of EU structures.

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: “The Joint Committee has been active in meeting with both Governments and with the EU Chief Negotiator on specific concerns related to human rights and equality.

“Today this research commissioned by the Joint Committee brings forward new information on the challenges and possible solutions which are likely to arise in relation to the Common Travel Area (CTA). It is in the interest of all that these issues are examined carefully and resolved to ensure a clarity of understanding and application of the CTA.”

Les Allamby, chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, added: “The research is a welcome detailed assessment of the practical issues around cross-border health and social care cooperation, protection of workers’ rights, access to social security and studying in schools and colleges and how this will be impacted by the UK exit from the EU.

“The Common Travel area’s value and importance will undoubtedly increase whatever deal is done between the UK government and EU27. Strengthening the legal basis that underpins the Common Travel Area would provide an important reassurance around the long-term protection of rights.”

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