Airlines Face G3k Fines in Refugee Law

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TOUGH new rules that penalise airlines and ferry companies for carrying illegal immigrants come into effect today.

The new law allows the Government to hit offenders with a EUR3,000 fine for each bogus refugee on a plane, train or boat into Ireland.

But the measures were slammed by refugee groups yesterday.

Peter O'Mahony of the Refugee Council said: "These provisions have serious implications for those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum.

"Legislation like this will make it incredibly difficult for asylum seekers to get into Ireland where they feel they will be safe.

"It shifts responsibility from experienced customs officials to airline staff."

Mr O'Mahony added the laws lacked "logic" and were part of a Europe-wide policy of making it more difficult for people to get into Western countries.

He said: "There is a horrifying lack of transparency in these laws. There is no accountability.

"These laws make unreasonable demands on carriers.

"The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has strongly criticised similar laws elsewhere and with good reason."

But Justice Minister Michael McDowell said they would help safeguard the security of the state despite the criticisms.

Launching the laws, he said: "I have consulted widely with carriers prior to the introduction of this legislation.

"Carrier's liability is already in operation in many other states and carriers operating out of Ireland are already aware of how those laws operate. …