The ITF has called for a major overhaul of the Irish fishing industry to comply with national, European and international legal obligations, saying the government’s permit scheme to address exploitation of migrant fishers had instead ‘legalised slavery’.
In his testimony (which starts at 13’ 47” in the film) to the government’s Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 4 July, ITF co-ordinator for Ireland and Britain Ken Fleming said that the current regulatory regime for non-EEA migrant fishers was not fit for purpose. He criticised ‘repeated failures’ by State agencies to enforce the permit scheme, and called for sweeping changes.
Mr Fleming presented the committee with a special ITF report on the conditions and abuses faced by Asian and African crews in the Irish fishing fleet. Also presenting evidence was the Irish Migrant Rights Centre.
The scheme, introduced in May 2016, was meant to regularise the status of and give employment rights to the large numbers of undocumented migrant workers on whom the Irish industry depends for labour. Among the measures outlined by the ITF to tackle the abuse of migrant fishers were:
- a moratorium on permits to out of country fishers;
- removal of exemption from the permit scheme of vessels under 15 meters (over 80 percent of the fleet); and
- decoupling of the permit from a single specified employer to the fisher.
“I warned as early as January 2016 that the scheme would not work because the boat owners – with whom I’d been working for 10 years to try and get change – would not comply with the raft of legislation. Sadly I’ve been proved right and the permit has been reduced to nothing better than a dog licence.” – Ken Fleming said:
Johnny Hansen, chair of the ITF fisheries’ section, commented that the Irish government could no longer ignore the warnings by the ITF and others and needed to act urgently to protect migrant fishers.
Read the Guardian news report of the hearing and the 2015 Guardian exposé.