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US Customs and Border Protection agency asked to investigate forced labour links to Irish seafood

15 Dec 2021
Photo: Jonathan Cutrer / Flickr

Liberty Shared, a US non-governmental organisation, has petitioned the United States Customs and Border Protection agency to investigate the possibility that seafood imports from Ireland may be the product of forced labour.

Responding to Liberty Shared’s petition, Fisheries Campaign Lead for Ireland for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Michael O’Brien, said:

We welcome this initiative. It is a logical and necessary step for the US Customs and Border Protection agency to consider this petition. It flows from the US State Departments rating of Ireland as Tier 2 watch list” for the second year running in this years Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Fishing is cited as an area of trafficking and labour abuses.

Abuses of migrants working in the Irish fishing fleet should be investigated externally as a matter of urgency since the Department of Justice in Ireland has denied the existence of the problems in fisheries outlined in the TIP report.”

The majority of Irelands exported catch sells in the EU, but a US investigation would throw an appropriate spotlight on what is going on in Ireland.

OBrien explained: The President of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, has issued a number of statements over the last few months ostensibly taking a firm stand against forced labour and human trafficking. A US investigation into an EU Member State should make European officials sit up and take notice.

While Van Der Leven was alluding, in the main, to forced labour and human trafficking outside the EU, it would be utterly inconsistent to disregard cases within. The ITF will apply pressure on the EU Commission as long as abuses of migrants in the Irish fishing industry continue.

There is a history of poor enforcement and penalties that do not deter the worst offenders among the vessel owners in Irish fishing sector. This means the ITF will not only campaign for a changed approach with the Irish authorities, but confront others in the supply chain including processors, retailers, and wholesalers. We will also make authorities in export destinations aware that the products of forced labour and human trafficking are making their way into their markets.

No-one wants to be associated with forced labour as it has a profound impact on the profitability and reputation of companies in the supply chain. The ITF will pull whatever levers are available until these shocking practices are halted in the Irish fishing fleet,” he said.