Filipino’s plight highlights probe of trafficking in UK fishing industry
SAN FRANCISCO – Police in Scotland are investigating allegations of human trafficking and slavery in parts of the UK’s fishing fleet after a Filipino crewman alleged that he was forced to continue working on a British prawn trawler despite having part of his finger ripped off in an accident.
Henry Mahinay, 56, said that he kept working without painkillers and only first aid treatment as blood streamed down his arm before he was abandoned on the quayside of a Scottish port more than five hours later, reported UK’s The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-investigate-claims-of-slavery-in-uk-fishing-fleet-9877879.html .
“I took off my glove and showed the captain, as it was bleeding and I was in terrible pain,” said the father of five. “But he told me: ‘It’s not my responsibility to take you to hospital. It’s only a small cut – now get back to work,’” he told The Independent.
Detectives in Scotland interviewed Mahinay, whose finger was partially amputated. He depicted his ordeal in a 13-page statement that is part of a claim for unpaid wages. He claims to have received less than £100 over two and a half months.
Agencies working with abused seamen said Mahinay’s story is typical in the £770-million industry that increasingly relies on foreign labor due to dwindling catches and profits and a shortage of British fishermen willing to take on the dangerous work, according to The Independent.
Foreign workers are easily exploited because visa rules mean they are usually forced to live on the boats where they work and are out of reach of any inspection or welfare checks.
They are also not subject to minimum wage protection. Some foreign crewmen from West Africa and Asia are being legally paid as little as £600 a month.
The Home Office said that 24 maritime workers were identified as potential victims of trafficking last year but said that the actual numbers are likely to be much higher, The Independent reported.
In his statement, Mahinay detailed how he was fleeced by a Manila-based agent who took more than £2,000 from him. He and a colleague were flown to Belfast and set to work on a ship in Northern Ireland, while being assured they were in England.
During his employment, he said, he was screamed at by the captain, worked until late in the evening and was provided with very little food and rest.
Although Mahinay said he was due to be paid the equivalent of £700 a month, he never received any money, most of which was to be paid through his Philippine agent.
Mahinay said his employer showed him proof payments to the agent of nearly £3,000, but claimed his partner and five children in the Philippines did not receive any money. He has now been given a year’s leave to remain in Britain.
The British fishing industry says only a tiny number of its 12,000 employees are exploited, but the British government has announced plans in the Modern Slavery Bill to allow checks on vessels at sea.
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