Cork trawler owners deny facilitating illegal immigrants

Men on trial for hiring two Filipino fishermen without having an employment permit

Two Cork trawler operators have gone on trial for hiring two Filipino fishermen. Stock photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images

Two Cork trawler operators have gone on trial for hiring two Filipino fishermen. Stock photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images

 

Two trawler operators have gone on trial for hiring two Filipino fishermen after an investigation into the recruitment of non-EU fishermen in Ireland.

Owners of the Labardie Fisher, Leonard Hyde (62) from Crosshaven, Co Cork and Pat O’Mahony (50), from Kinsale, Co Cork each denied two separate charges when they appeared at Cork District Court.

Both were charged under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 with knowingly facilitating the entry into the state on March 25th, 2015 of a person who they knew or had reasonable cause to believe was an illegal immigrant or a person who intended to apply for asylum.

Both men were also charged under the Employment Permits Act 2003 with employing a non-national, Demie Balbin Omol (40) at Hugh Coveney Pier in Crosshaven on October 5th, 2015 without having an employment permit.

Insp John Deasy told Judge Aingeal Ni Chonduin at Cork District Court that the charges followed a visit to Crosshaven pier by gardai who began an investigation on foot of a complaint to them. 

The court heard Det Garda Maureen Moriarty of the Garda immigration Bureau on October 5th, 2015 boarded the trawler Labardie Fisher owned by the defendants and spoke to two Filipino nationals on board, Mr Omol and Lyndon Nagale (26).

Following inquiries by Det Garda Moriarty and her colleague, Det Garda Michelle Saunders, it was found that neither Filipino national had an Irish work permit and neither had immigration stamps on their passports.

The court heard the fishermen had arrived in the UK from the Philippines and travelled on to Belfast Airport where they were collected by Mr O’Mahony and brought to Cork, where they began fishing after their arrival.

Both Mr O’Mahony and Mr Hyde told gardaí in voluntary interviews on January 21st, 2016, they had entered a contract with a shipping agent, Diamond Marine in 2015 for the supply of the two trained Filipino fishermen for a monthly fee of €1,075 per worker plus an upfront payment to the agent.

The agent then paid an agreed amount of this money to the men’s families in the Philippines, the trawler operators said.

The accused said they told gardaí they had been assured by Diamond Marine that the employees would be fully compliant with visa, work permit and passport requirements.

Mr O’Mahony and Mr Hyde said the workers were provided with the food of their choice, cash for groceries and sundries, phone credit so they could call home, WiFi, TV services and regular time off.

Both also had full control of their own passports and could leave the trawler at any time when it was berthed in Cork, the trawler operators said.

Mr O’Mahony told gardaí that “we couldn’t get any Irish staff...there are 90 per cent of the Irish boats...who cannot get enough Irish staff.”

Mr Hyde said he had never before contracted for non-EU workers and would not be hiring any such workers again.

He had worked in the fishing industry since 1969 and had a proud reputation for being fair and honourable to work with.

Judge Ni Chonduin adjourned the matter to March 8th when she will hear the remainder of the case.

The accused were supported in court by more than 30 fellow fishermen.