Human trafficking claims made in Irish fishing industry
Twelve cases of alleged human trafficking in the Irish fishing industry have been reported to An Garda Siochana since July last year.
Eight fishermen have been taken into protective Garda custody and a further four men are waiting to be interviewed by garda detectives working with the immigration bureau.
They include four migrant fishermen from West Africa, who were taken into the protection of the State last weekend when they were effectively let go by their employer.
The men, who had travelled from West Africa to Belfast, were contracted to work on British trawlers but ended up working on Irish vessels. They were left stranded and without visas when their relationship with their employer broke down. They are now being looked after by the State while their trafficking claims are being investigated.
The 12 cases currently with the Garda National Immigration Bureau are in the early stages of investigation, according to informed sources.
The cases were referred by the International Transport Federation, which last year told an Oireachtas Committee that it had gathered evidence of "widespread abuse" in the fishing industry. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland published a survey last year of non-Irish workers who claimed mistreatment on fishing vessels.
A separate complaint, by a Ghanaian fisherman who claimed he was dropped overboard, has been referred by An Garda Siochana to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The fisherman claimed that in May last year, he suffered an injury on board the trawler and was unable to work.
He claimed he was put in a survival suit, attached to a line and dropped overboard, and was then transferred to another trawler that was returning to shore. The man complained to gardai, who forwarded the case to the PSNI via Interpol, because the incident allegedly occurred outside Irish jurisdiction.
The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation issued a statement last week in support of migrant fishermen. The group offered to help source work in the fishing industry for the men under the migrant workers scheme. "We in the industry have lobbied for years to ensure our migrant fishing industry workers were guaranteed protection under our employment laws," it said.