Reports of alleged human trafficking in the Irish fishing industry have surged with gardai now investigating almost two dozen cases.
Twenty-three migrant fishermen who worked on Irish trawlers have been granted status as suspected victims of trafficking by gardai, compared to 12 cases last April
The 23 suspected trafficking victims are being accommodated in direct provision centres for asylum seekers pending criminal investigations of their cases.
They were referred to gardai by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF), which has been lobbying for better working conditions.
The union launched a High Court action last week seeking to halt a permit scheme that allows non-EU migrant fishermen to work here, claiming it does not protect them from exploitation.
Most migrant fishermen working on Irish trawlers are from Africa and Asia and obtain permits from the Department of Justice to work to registered trawlers in Ireland.
The High Court last week heard claims that migrant fishermen have been subjected to racial and sometimes physical abuse and work an average of 116-hour weeks for €2.83 an hour.
The ITWF wants the Minister for Justice to suspend the permit scheme for migrant fishermen pending a review of its operation. The Minister for Justice and the State are "hotly contesting" the action. The purpose of the permit scheme when it was introduced in 2016 was to provide greater protection for migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry.
The case continues this week.