A new Irish government permit scheme giving non-EEA migrant fishers the same rights as EU crew members has been broadly welcomed, reports Lorna Siggins.

Both the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) responded positively to the announcement of a more streamlined procedure by the Irish Department of Justice.

Under the new scheme, all holders of a current valid permission to work as a non-EEA crew member under the Atypical Working Scheme in the Irish fishing fleet expiring on or after 1 January, 2023 will be granted a Stamp 4 immigration permission.

ITF Irish co-ordinator Michael O’Brien said that this was a positive advance on a review published last October which had recommended an overly protracted two-year process by which those fishers currently enrolled in the Atypical Scheme could successfully apply for a Stamp 4 visa.

Fishers can now ‘immediately make appointments with the Garda National Immigration Bureau to get their new Stamp 4 visas over the coming days and weeks’, he said.

“Migrant fishers who wish to remain working in fishing now have an incontestable right to earn an equal amount to their European crewmates on the share of the catch basis, which effectively dismantles the system of effective pay apartheid that prevailed under the old Atypical Scheme

“However, this announcement does not have a direct bearing on undocumented current and former fishers. Although a number of undocumented fishers have been recently granted Stamp 4 visas by the Department of Justice off the back of individual representations made by their solicitors, the ITF is hopeful that all applications yield similar outcomes and the granting of Stamp 4 visas in the coming weeks and months.

Aodh Ó Donnell: “This
is positive news with the introduction of measures to protect migrant fishers.”

“Much remains to be done to improve the conditions of migrant fishers in the Irish fleet, but the announcement is a significant step forward and represents the immediate liberation of over 300 fishers from the exploitative Atypical Work Permit Scheme.”

IFPO chief executive Aodh Ó Donnell said the award of Stamp 4 permission is ‘a critical and much embraced change to the status of crew employed in the Irish fishing fleet under the auspices of the problematic Atypical Working Scheme’.

“Our members have worked hard with us, as a representative body, to support the right of all non-EEA migrant fishers to fair treatment and for fit-for-purpose permitting. This is positive news with the introduction of measures to protect migrant fishers, and to grant them the full rights and entitlements under employment legislation.

“This legislative change gives qualifying non-EEA crew the same full entitlements as EU crew and the option to avail of the share-based remuneration. Furthermore, the process of permitting is streamlined for both crew and vessel owners. Costs of administration are also radically reduced to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The IFPO paid tribute to minister for the marine Charlie McConalogue and minister of state with responsibility for employment affairs Damien English for ‘spearheading this much-needed legislative initiative’.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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