Trawling Humans



From top: Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford; traffickers take advantage of a transit shipping loophole to bring workers into ireland

Via The Guardian:

A year-long investigation into the Irish prawn and whitefish sector has uncovered undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian and Indian fishermen manning boats in ports from Cork to Galway.

They have described a catalogue of abuses, including being confined to vessels unless given permission by their skippers to go on land, and being paid less than half th Irish minimum wage that would apply if they were legally employed. They have also spoken of extreme sleep deprivation, having to work for days or nights on end with only a few hours’ sleep, and with no proper rest days.

Some migrant workers claim to have been deceived and appear to have been trafficked on to trawlers for labour exploitation, an abuse that would be a form of modern slavery.

Our evidence suggests that some boat owners and crewing agencies are smuggling African and Filipino workers in to Ireland through entry points at London Heathrow and Belfast airports, and then arranging for them to cross from Northern Ireland in to the Republic by road, bypassing Irish immigration controls.

Agents and owners appear to be exploiting a loophole designed for international merchant shipping, which allows non-EU seafarers to transit through the UK for up to 48 hours if they immediately move on to join vessels working in international waters.

These transit arrangements are not intended for fishermen working in national waters or constantly coming in and out of Irish ports. We understand the loophole was first exploited by agents to recruit migrant workers for the Scottish fishing fleet and the practice appears to have spread from there to the Irish fishing industry.

Because Irish trawler crew have traditionally worked as share fishermen – a system whereby workers are paid a share of the money made from the catch, divided in proportions agreed by the owner – they have generally been considered self-employed and responsible for their own tax and insurance.

….There has been considerable confusion about the employment status of migrant fishermen and some of the boat owners we spoke to said that Irish police and officials had given them inconsistent signals about employment regulations and the immigration status of non-EEA crew.

Simply declaring someone self-employed or a share fisherman does not, however, change their employment status, nor relieve their employers of their legal obligations if workers are de facto employed. How a worker is classified in law depends on what degree of autonomy he has. Several undocumented migrants who had been told by owners they were share fishermen said that, in fact, they had no control over their work and were being paid much less than the minimum wage that would apply if they were legally employed .

Revealed: trafficked migrant workers abused in Irish fishing industry (Guardian)


Thanks Nick Moran

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31 thoughts on “Trawling Humans

    1. Neilo

      In fairness, the ‘Neighbouring Island’ has its own share of trawlermen with dubious business ethics

      1. Formerly known as

        This is a comment from the Guardian:
        I am visiting Dublin and have just listened to an interview on Irish radio (RTE) with a spokeswoman for the Guardian (I didn’t catch whether she was the author of the report). When asked why the Guardian concentrated on Ireland she replied the researchers found the situation was equally as bad in England and Scotland but that for legal reasons the Guardian could not publish as full and detailed a report and so decided to report only on the Irish situation.

    2. mauriac

      “brave”” heroes” according the insufferable ad for the failed bad bank AIB.The ad also claims,” lunch is a luxury”.

    3. classter

      The article says the practice began in Scotland but spread to Ireland.

      We’ll solve nothing if we constantly insist that we are inherently worse than everybody else.

  1. Kolmo

    Scumbags will be scumbags.

    How much extra profit does it take to turn a trawler owner into a souless slave owner?

  2. phil

    Well , lets not rush to judgement , haven worked on boats myself, I would not expect to sleep for days while at sea, that’s the Job… But the minimum wage thing , I would expect the crew not to be paid a wage, but to earn a share in the catch once it goes to market , and that being true means you get nothing if the boat catches nothing.

    As an Irish citizen, I worked for a boat company in Greece, I was employed by a child company of the main one, that was registered in Switzerland, so in effect I was not working in the EU that year , even though I was in the EU. This was a little tricky to describe to the Revenue, and caused issues with tax credits etc…

    When we landed on Cyprus (Limesol) one day I was told I could not get off the boat , I produced my Irish passport , there were problems with port police , boat papers etc.. For peace sake I just got back on the boat.

    The story above Im sure is true, I trust the guardian , but working in the boating industry is not comparable to land work…

    1. DubLoony

      May not be comparable but c’mon, there have to be basic standards of human decency.
      Shameful exploitation.

    2. ahjayzis

      This does stink of proper illegal trafficking under false pretences though. Night journeys over the border from Belfast to Cork with the poor guy none the wiser with no clue where he was headed or how much he’d be working / getting paid or even who he was working for is bang out of order whatever way you look at it.

      1. phil

        No always, If you are on a factory ship offshore for X num of days (126 I think ) you become a NonDom , That was my situation …

  3. Gers

    How annoying once again to see an important thorough investigation like this published in the Guardian and not on Irish medias… Kudos to them, its not the journalists in Ireland who would do an investigation like this, its not even reported on any Irish media that I have checked!

    1. Ban Doyle

      ah yea but Bertie Noonan Howlin Joan Burton Paul Murphy Michael D Dave Norris Simon Harris

      I mean come on now FFS!

  4. Anon

    The pier in Crosshaven from where poor Demie was enslaved is called the Hugh Coveney Pier!
    Will Simon Coveney ensure this never happens again?

  5. Truth in the News

    Coveney has set up a inter department group to investigate, how come this
    was not spotted by inspectors of his Dept long time ago, as they constantly
    monitor fishing fleets, come to think of it, what ever happened about the horse
    meat scandal…..?

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