Only 60 applications received for permits for foreign fishing crew

Migrant rights group expresses concerns about scheme to protect non-Europeans

Former minister for the marine Simon Coveney: set up a  taskforce which initiated the Atypical Working Scheme for Non-European Economic Area Workers. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Former minister for the marine Simon Coveney: set up a taskforce which initiated the Atypical Working Scheme for Non-European Economic Area Workers. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The Government’s new scheme to protect African, Filipino and other non-Europeans working on Irish fishing vessels from working long hours for low pay has attracted a relatively low number of applications for official work permits for existing crew.

The scheme allows for up to 500 permits to meet an industry skills shortage. But only 60 applications had been received by the Department of Justice late last week.

The department said it expected a late surge in applications, but the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland has called for yesterday’s deadline to be extended.

The Atypical Working Scheme for Non-European Economic Area Workers was initiated in February on foot of a taskforce set up by then minister for marine Simon Coveney last year.

The move came after a Guardian newspaper investigation claimed that fishermen from Egypt, the Philippines and some African countries, were being trafficked into the Republic via Northern Ireland and were working long hours for low pay.

The industry said it had been lobbying since 2009 for a permit scheme to allow boats owners and skippers to employ skilled non-nationals on a legal footing. It said that any abuses relate to a minority of the fleet.

The scheme guarantees a contract and payment of the minimum wage, along with additional insurance and repatriation costs.

This can mean that foreign crews still earn less than Irish crews, who are on a “share” system while at sea, said Francis O’Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation.

He said it was creating a “two-tier” system among crew. Some boat owners who could not afford to pay wages while their boat was tied up might also have difficulty with it, he said.

Gráinne O’Toole, workplace rights co-ordinator at the Migrant Rights Centre, said the scheme was flawed. It should not have tied permits to employers but should allow crew to apply independently, she said.