Thursday 19 April 2018

Gardaí raid fishing trawlers in ports across Ireland over probe into illegal workers

Stock picture
Stock picture

Greg Harkin and Ralph Riegel

Gardai have searched a ­number of fishing trawlers in ports across the country as part of an investigation into the use of unregistered migrant workers.

However, migrant rights’ groups have hit out at the clampdown, saying many of the workers are being caught in red tape bureaucracy.

The latest raid was in Howth yesterday and followed similar inspections of vessels in Cork, Galway, Kerry, Louth and Donegal.

The probe – which is totally unconnected to allegations levelled last year by a UK newspaper – was conducted by the dedicated Garda Immigration Unit.

It is understood the primary focus of the probe was the movement of undocumented workers from countries in Africa and South East Asia.

The probe was co-ordinated by the Garda immigration unit at Angelsea Street in Cork.


A number of individuals in the fishing industry were questioned by detectives following raids on specific trawlers.

Gardai were specifically focused on how non-EU migrants arrived in Ireland to work in the fishing industry and what documentation covered their subsequent employment.

It’s understood an extensive file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“This had nothing whatsoever to do with the claims in a UK newspaper last year,” one source explained. “This is an ongoing investigation into the application of immigration law in Ireland.

“It also involved determining precisely how these non-EU workers arrived in Ireland for work subsequently undertaken in the fishing industry.”

The investigation largely revolved around fishing industry workers from the Philippines.

Gardai received full co-operation from the fishing industry operatives they contacted.

It is understood the core issue being examined was how the migrant workers arrived in Ireland – and whether they had crossed into the Republic from Northern Ireland ports or airports.


The file was submitted to the DPP and gardai expect to receive a ruling on what action, if any, will now result.

Irish fishing industry officials reacted angrily last year to allegations in one UK newspaper that migrant workers were effectively being exploited.

They argued the workers were needed in the industry and the Government responded by allowing hundreds of workers to apply for work permits.

However, that process was closed in July, preventing new workers from obtaining ­permission to work here.

Grainne O’ Toole of the ­Migrant Rights Centre Ireland hit out at the raids.

“These operations conducted by state agencies targeting fishing boats run contrary to the intention of the task force established to tackle human trafficking of migrant fishermen, and is creating the conditions where migrant fishermen are being penalised,” she said.


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