Migrant fishermen permit scheme to be capped at 500

One-year permits renewable, with initial intention of ‘regularising’ those already here

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said:  “We want people who are currently working in the fishing industry but are undocumented - we want to change their status to make sure they are legally working here under a contract of employment. Then after that first three months, there will be a quota, a cap if you like, of 500 people.” File photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said: “We want people who are currently working in the fishing industry but are undocumented - we want to change their status to make sure they are legally working here under a contract of employment. Then after that first three months, there will be a quota, a cap if you like, of 500 people.” File photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images

 

A new work permit system for non-European migrant workers in the fishing industry is to be capped at 500 individuals.

Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Simon Coveney announced the details of the new scheme, which will initially apply only to people already working in Ireland.

The proposals emerged from a working group set up by the Coalition, including a number of Government departments and State agencies.

The establishment of the group three weeks ago followed a report in the Guardian newspaper.

The report, the result of a year-long investigation, said African and Asian migrant workers were being “routinely but illegally used as cheap labour on Irish fishing trawlers working out of some of the country’s most popular tourist ports”.

Mr Coveney said the one-year permits are renewable, with the initial intention of “regularising” those currently working in Ireland.

“For the first three months of the scheme, only people in Ireland will be able to apply for that permit,” Mr Coveney said. “In other words, it is a way of regularising the position for people who are currently undocumented essentially, and vulnerable because of that.

‘Change their status’

“We want people who are currently working in the fishing industry but are undocumented - we want to change their status to make sure they are legally working here under a contract of employment. Then after that first three months, there will be a quota, a cap if you like, of 500 people.”

Ged Nash, Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said the new standards introduce “clear contracts and minimum pay, terms and conditions which are enforceable in Irish and EU law”.

For the first three months of the scheme, the permits will only be available to migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area who are currently illegally employed in the fishing industry.

The permits are described as a “new system of atypical worker permission” and will ensure that legally binding contracts are put in place for the migrant fishermen.

‘Valid contract’

“ Employers (who must be a licensed vessel owner) are to be responsible for ensuring that a valid contract of employment, certified by a solicitor and drafted in accordance with national and EU employment rights legislation, is in place for all workers, to also include repatriation arrangements,” the Department of Agriculture and the Marine said.

The level of permits will be monitored nationally, with the State to monitor all contracts given to such workers.

The workers will be entitled to the minimum wage and will receive health insurance for the duration of their contracts.