Non-EU nationals working on fishing vessels illegally


AT LEAST 1,000 non-EU nationals are working on Irish fishing vessels without work permits, the Irish Transport Federation has said.

The Department of Enterprise, has not issued any permits to non- EU seafarers to work on Ireland’s 2,000-strong fishing fleet in the last four years and has not received any applications for such permits.

However, according to the federation, which is affiliated to Siptu, many workers from outside the EU are employed on Irish fishing vessels illegally. Some have also been badly treated.

The federation is currently fighting to get back pay for two Filipino men who were employed on a vessel working out of the west coast in 2008 and 2009 and who were not paid for three months.

It is also assisting two Russian men, one who was badly injured in an incident while on board an Irish fishing vessel and abandoned by its owners, and one who answered an internet advertisement and worked for two weeks on an Irish vessel in October 2009 before being put off it without pay.

It is understood the status of working conditions on a number of vessels is also being investigated by the National Employment Rights Authority.

A 2008 report on migrant workers in the Scottish and Irish fishing industries, produced by the federation, found some abuses within the system.

It said “transit visas”, which allowed migrant fishermen entry into Britain and Ireland to join a named vessel on the basis they would sail to a foreign port, were being used to bring workers in to Britain and Ireland to work on fishing vessels.

On foot of the report, Britain brought in tighter regulations to police the use of the transit visas, but although draft regulations were produced in Ireland in 2008, they have never been implemented.

Ken Fleming, inspector with the union, said workers were employed from countries including Egypt and the Philippines and some were kept in very poor working conditions.

He called for the draft scheme of Employment Permit Requirements for Seafarers to be implemented as soon as possible. He also called on the National Employment Rights Authority to increase inspections on fishing vessels and on the department to introduce tighter policing.

An authority spokesman said it could not comment on individual cases.

The Department of Enterprise said that under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006, the obligation was on all employers and employees to have a valid employment permit where one was required.

It also said the department was working on a scheme for employment permit requirements to address the special circumstances of the seafaring sector.