I was working in Johannesburg when I first got wind of the fact that Ireland has become an illegal back door to the UK. If you’re from a country such as South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Fiji or Guyana, you need, not just a passport, but a prearranged visa, obtained from the local embassy for a fee, before you can even board a plane to Britain. It takes time, your details are checked, and you need to show a reason why you’ll go home at the end of your stay.
In the 1980s most African nationals could come to Britain visa-free. But worries about terrorism and crimes committed once in the UK meant that, one by one, African countries had to join the visa scheme. In 2009, South Africa joined too — not just because of anxiety about security but because the UK reckoned that the South African passport system was open to abuse.