Traf­ficked fish­er­men taken into care of State

The Irish Times - - Home News - KITTY HOLLAND So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Six­teen fish­er­men from out­side the Euro­pean Union, who gar­daí sus­pect have been traf­ficked for ex­ploita­tion in the in­dus­try, have been taken into the care of the State.

Gar­daí are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cases of the men, from Egypt, the Philip­pines and Ghana, un­der the pro­vi­sions of the 2008 Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Act. A per­son con­victed un­der the Act faces a penalty of up to life in prison.

Twelve of the men arrived in Ire­land with per­mits granted un­der an Atyp­i­cal Work­ing Scheme (AWS) for non-Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area (EEA) crew in the Ir­ish fish­ing fleet, es­tab­lished es­pe­cially for the in­dus­try in 2016.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, hu­man traf­fick­ing in­cludes the trans­porta­tion, re­cruit­ment or re­ceipt of peo­ple, by means of force, co­er­cion, ab­duc­tion, fraud, de­cep­tion or abuse of power or vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Tran­sit visas

Four oth­ers, from Ghana, arrived in Belfast at the end of Jan­uary with UK tran­sit visas to work on ves­sels out of Belfast. They were brought di­rectly across the Border and worked on ves­sels out of ports in­clud­ing Howth in Dublin, Dun­more East in Co Water­ford and Castle­town­bere in Co Cork with­out Ir­ish per­mits, be­fore be­ing asked to leave a boat in Howth at the be­gin­ning of April. They are now be­ing ac­com­mo­dated in the Balse­skin re­cep­tion cen­tre in Dublin, hav­ing been re­ferred to gar­daí by the In­ter­na­tional Trans­port Fed­er­a­tion (ITF) trade union.

The men have the right to work while they await the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and must re­main in the State as wit­nesses.

Ex­ploita­tion

The ITF, which is af­fil­i­ated to Siptu, de­scribes the AWS as “un­fit for pur­pose” and is calling on Min­is­ter for Jus­tice Char­lie Flana­gan to sus­pend the scheme.

They say the scheme, es­tab­lished amid con­cerns of wide­spread ex­ploita­tion in the in­dus­try, is be­ing widely ig­nored and un­der­mined, with ev­i­dence of wages as low as ¤2.40 an hour, 20-hour work­ing days and nei­ther sick-pay nor in­sur­ance.

In a re­port ear­lier this year, the Ir­ish Naval Ser­vice said be­tween Jan­uary 2016 and last Septem­ber, it boarded and in­spected 86 Ir­ish-regis­tered fish­ing ves­sels and found 182 non-EEA crew mem­bers. Some 73 had the re­quired per­mits and 109 had not, it said.

A spokesman for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice said :“This Gov­ern­ment ab­hors any abuse of proper em­ploy­ment con­di­tions, in any cir­cum­stance.

“In the mat­ter of abuses or oth­er­wise of the em­ploy­ment con­di­tions of any non-EEA na­tional in the Ir­ish fish­ing in­dus­try, the relevant au­thor­i­ties are pri­mar­ily the Work­place Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion and the Ma­rine Sur­vey Of­fice.”

‘‘ This Gov­ern­ment ab­hors any abuse of proper em­ploy­ment con­di­tions

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