Report raises persisting problems for migrant fishermen in Irish fleet
2017-12-15 16:50:00 -


By Chinedu Onyejelem

“Why am I different? Why does the employer treat me differently? I am a man, I am the same as you.” Migrant fishermen report


These were the words of an Egyptian fisherman in a new report about severe exploitation of migrants on Irish fishing boats.


Migrant fishermen who were interviewed for the study by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) also highlighted their experiences with being underpaid and discriminated against in the industry.


Of the 30 migrant fishermen interviewed, the MRCI said two-thirds claimed that they work more than 100 hours a week, with an average payment of just €2.82 per hour. 


“One in four have experienced verbal or physical abuse while one in five have experienced discrimination and racism,” added the report, which also said 40 percent of migrant fishermen working on Irish boats “do not feel safe at work”.


Speaking at the launch of the report, MRCI director Edel McGinley urged the Government and the Irish fishing industry to address the issues raised. 


“Ireland cannot be proud of the food we produce unless we respect the people who produce it,” she said. “Fishing is a tough job in a complex industry, and it’s even more difficult and dangerous for migrant fishers enduring chronic underpayment and shockingly long hours.”


In 2015 a Government taskforce was set up following revelations in the Guardian newspaper that exploitation and signs of trafficking were evident across the Irish fishing fleet. 


However, this new report suggests that the Atypical Working Scheme developed by the taskforce has in fact created new problems.


“As a result of this scheme, these skilled and experienced fishermen are being paid minimum wage for a 39-hour week – while, like all fishers, working much longer hours. This means their actual hourly pay is less than €3,” said McGinley.


“This must be an immediate priority for Minister for Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys. People need to be sure that the Irish fish they buy is exploitation-free.”


The MCRI report recommends the development of a new model contract that accurately reflects the reality of the fishing sector, and for the Marine Survey Office to have responsibility for co-ordination of compliance in the sector.


It also calls for the replacement of the Atypical Working Scheme with an immigration permission that ensures non-EEA fishers are paid equally and can move freely between employers.


Additionally, the report suggests that the Government make information on employment rights and immigration procedures available and accessible in relevant languages. 


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