Wednesday 23 May 2018

'My missus is just a very special person' - Meet the trade unionist who brought homeless fishermen to stay in his home

Ken Fleming in his office and (inset) the four Ghanaian fisherman in his garage
Ken Fleming in his office and (inset) the four Ghanaian fisherman in his garage

Sean Nolan

An official with International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) says he was forced to bring four Ghanaian fishermen home to stay with him and his family in Dublin after they had been left with nowhere else to go.

Dubliner Ken Fleming, who has worked in the trade union sector for decades and is now the ITF Coordinator for Great Britain and Ireland, also tells us that it wasn't the first time he has brought fishermen in Ireland home to his house.

"My missus is just a very special person," Ken says when asked how his family reacted to his quick thinking last week.

The story of the four Ghanaian fisherman - Joshua Baafi (36), John Ninson (42), Noel Adabblah (31) and James Effirim (41) - began in January when they arrived in Belfast to begin work on what they were told were British-registered trawlers.

Instead the men were driven to Dublin where they allegedly worked on a mixture on British and Irish-registered boats before, on April 10, they were allegedly told there was no more work for them.

The four men arrived at Liberty Hall where they met Ken and they explained they were homeless, with no food or money.

Joshua Baafi (36), John Ninson (42), Noel Adabblah (31) and James Effirim (41) in Ken Fleming's garage
Joshua Baafi (36), John Ninson (42), Noel Adabblah (31) and James Effirim (41) in Ken Fleming's garage

"It was late in the evening (April 12), I couldn't get any of my superiors in England but it is a long-term commitment, once you place one guy or four guys in accommodation you can't just tell them in three days time you have to get out now because I have spent enough.

"I decided that I needed time to think, the weekend was coming up and I said to them 'lads, there is only one alternative now, my garage'.

"'My house is full, but I would sleep in it in these circumstances. It has heaters in it. We'll have some food, we'll have some furniture in it and we'll have brand new sleeping bags in it. Are you on?"

The four men agreed and after a night in Ken's garage the gardai agreed to get involved the next day and they were able to house the men at the Baleskin Reception Centre.

"They are reasonably content," Ken says. "We have arranged for contact with their families, phone, anything else they need and they are quite content that their welfare is being looked after, as best as we can."

The four mens' situation is now being treated as a potential case of human trafficking.

Ken Fleming
Ken Fleming

An Garda Siochana spokesperson told Independent.ie: "Gardai can confirm that the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is assisting four persons as a result of a referral from the International Transport Federation."

Ken also said that it wasn't the first time he has used his home for emergency accommodation for fishermen.

"There was one crew from Cork, they were flying back to Ukraine and nobody had any English, I had a bottle of brandy that I brought home from my holidays. And there are pictures of me and them in my kitchen. Prost was the only word we all knew!"

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