Abuses of migrant workers


In 2015, the Irish government announced a new work permit scheme to regularise undocumented fishermenfrom outside the EEA working on Irish-owned vessels. The initiative was launched after a Guardian investigation highlighted alleged abuses.

Early last year, 500 one-year permits were made available to owners who were required to pay the statutory minimum wage to migrant workers and provide them with a solicitor-backed contract. Francis O’Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, said at the time that 1,000 work permits would be needed “to get everybody covered”. According to a spokesperson from Ireland’s Department of Justice and Equality, just 182 permits have been granted to date. O’Donnell said he was not aware of boats breaking the regulations but any that did so acted without the support of his organisation.

MRCI’s O’Toole said: “The scheme is facilitating the use of cheap labour and we are extremely concerned about the lack of enforcement by Irish authorities.”

On Monday, 68 migrant fishermen attended a meeting in Dublin organised by the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Only one person said he had a valid work permit and some of the workers, who were mainly from Egypt, alleged a range of employment abuses including low pay, threats of deportation and continuous “24-hour” working with only 30 minutes’ rest in that period. One undocumented Egyptian said that last year he worked 150 hours a week on a trawler but was not paid properly. “We are slaves working,” he said.