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ITF statement on Irish Government's review of the Atypical Work Permit Scheme for non-EEA fishers

news Press Release 11 Oct 2022

Responding to the overdue publication by the government this evening of the review of the Atypical Work Permit Scheme for Non-EEA fishers the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) Fisheries Campaign Lead for Ireland, Michael O’Brien said:

“The ITF will study the report in detail and play its role in briefing the migrant fishers of its implications. 

”The headline recommendation is that the scheme will be effectively wound up in favour of integrating the fishers into one of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s more advantageous work permit schemes and therefore a path will be open to all fishers currently enrolled in the Atypical Scheme to progress to a visa stamp 4, full labour market access and family reunification if desired.

“This will be greatly welcomed by the just under 300 fishers currently enrolled in the scheme as it brings to an end the current situation where their permission to be in the country is forever tied exclusively to one vessel owner giving rise to enormous power imbalances and enabling abuses and exploitation. It will likewise benefit future Non-EEA migrant fishers who come to Ireland under the new arrangements.

“The precise permit system under which the fishers will be employed is the subject of a year-long process of engagement by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with stakeholders. The ITF, working with our affiliates and the migrant fishers themselves, who are organised in the Migrant Fishers’ Network, will fully engage in this process to ensure the best available type of permit, pay and working conditions are obtained for the migrant fishers.”

ITF Fisheries Campaign Lead for Ireland Michael O’Brien | (Credit: ITF)

Silence on the question of undocumented fishers and former fishers

“The major omission from the report is the question of the some 250 plus undocumented fishers and former fishers many of whom spent years in the Atypical Scheme before falling out of it through injury or acrimony with exploitative employers before resuming work on an undocumented basis.

“Most of these fishers were excluded from Minister McEntee’s scheme for undocumented workers earlier this year. Many of them have individual cases being made to the Department of Justice by their legal representatives or cases before the courts to regularise their situation. This has to be addressed. It is inconsistent to leave these fishers to continue working undocumented in the context of this review.

“Finally. the authors of the report adopt an unwarranted defensive tone in general on the performance of the Atypical Scheme over the last six and half years and in particular on the question of human trafficking. 

“Credible submissions were made by the ITF on behalf of dozens of fishers over the last six years leading them to be admitted by An Garda Síochána into the National Referral Mechanism for suspected victims of human trafficking. The DPP failed to prosecute in all of these cases, citing insufficient evidence not that the accusation were ‘without foundation’ as the review erroneously states. The DPP has failed to successfully prosecute any trafficking for labour exploitation ever, not alone of fishers, which is why Ireland has traditionally scored so poorly in a number of international anti-trafficking reports.”


Note to Editors: 

The ITF’s submission to the review process on 2nd February can be found here  

About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice for nearly 20 million working women and men in the transport industry across the world. FORSA, SIPTU and Unite the Union are the ITF’s affiliated unions in the Republic of Ireland.

Media contact: Michael O’Brien  o’ +353872400331