Sunday 18 August 2019

Task force to investigate claims of abuse of migrant workers in fishing industry

Concerned: Marine Minister Simon Coveney
Concerned: Marine Minister Simon Coveney

The Government has set up an interdepartmental task force to examine claims made by a UK newspaper that say migrant workers are being subjected to slave-like conditions on Irish fishing fleets.

Marine Minister Simon Coveney has said the group, which is made up of members from the Departments of Justice and Transport as well as a representative from the Attorney General's office, will meet to discuss the issue on Thursday and will examine the extent of the problem and whether or not it is being exaggerated.   

Mr Coveney, who will chair the taskforce, said the issues raised in a Guardian article were "deeply concerning" and stressed that they will be "dealt with comprehensively."

“We had quite a good and long conversation in cabinet today in relation to the Guardian story.  It is something that I am concerned about and so are all the ministers.

"Clearly there are very serious questions being raised, we want to get to the bottom of that and most importantly we want to put sustainable solutions in place for the future,"  he said.

When asked why the Government are only addressing the issue now after the Guardian exposé the minister said that they had been aware of the situation and stressed that gardai had already been investigating "links  between people trafficking and the fishing industry." 

"Obviously there is already work going on and An Garda Siochana is leading a project aimed specifically looking at people trafficking and whether it's linked with the fishing industry.

"They had a meeting with multiple agencies in October on that and I need to get a full brief on where they are at on it now and we will get that on Thursday,"  he said.

"But most importantly what people want here is a comprehensive response. "

He added that the article had helped to "sharpen the Governments focus" on the problem and on issues surrounding visa's, work permits and marine safety. 

Mr Coveney also said that he would be in favour of any amnesty that would allow illegal workers who felt they were being poorly treated to come forward without prosecution.

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