Filipinos among migrants trafficked for Irish fishing trawlers
SAN FRANCISCO–Undocumented African and Asian migrant workers are routinely used as cheap labor on board some Irish trawlers, the United Kingdom’s Guardian alleged after a yearlong investigation.
The migrants allegedly earn a fraction of local pay rates and work days on end with little sleep and must stay aboard the trawlers unless are given permission to go ashore. Workers are afraid of being deported.
Undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian and Indian fishermen are allegedly brought into the UK using a loophole, which lets non-European Union seafarers transit through the UK for up to 48 hours if they immediately move on to join vessels working in international waters. From there, they are brought to Belfast and then illegally brought into the Irish Republic.
According to the Guardian reports, the loophole was first taken advantage of by some in the Scottish fishing fleet before some operators in Ireland copied the practice.
Some workers claimed they must keep working despite the poor conditions because they owed money to the agencies that recruited them and had charged them huge fees to arrange visas, jobs and travel.
Some of the foreign fishermen spoke on condition of anonymity, but others said they were happy to work for low pay on Irish fishing boats because it was still more than they could earn back in their home countries.
The Manila-based agency that recruited one Filipino crewman, who is now suffering from a stomach cancer, said he was told he would be paid €1,000 a month for unlimited hours. The trawler-owner who hired him denied that he was being denied proper rest and pay.
A second Filipino, who had traveled with the first, said was allowed “14 hours sleep every night,” along with three meals a day, including a full “hotel dinner” in the middle of the day. This worker has returned to the Philippines.
The demand for foreign crews rose during the last economic boom in Ireland, when hundreds of Irish crewmen abandoned fishing for higher-paid construction jobs ashore. Trawler operators realized they could hire undocumented foreigner who would work for less pay and stay on board around the clock.
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