The International Transport Workers’ Federation has written to Charlie McConalogue, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the plight of several hundred undocumented fishers in the wake of Brexit.
“The Taoiseach, Mr Michéal Martin, has acknowledged the post-Brexit trade agreement will have a ‘significant negative effect’ on the fishing industry,” ITF Coordinator for Ireland and Britain, Ken Fleming, wrote in his 28 December letter to McConalogue.
With the ITF representing almost 20 million transport workers internationally, including fishers, Fleming said the ITF wished to express “grave concern at the plight of this group, the vast majority of them undocumented migrants, who form the main workforce on Irish fishing vessels. We say this with certainty based on experience of monitoring the industry for many years.”
According to information from the Minister’s office during Parliamentary Questions on 12 November, the ITF is aware of permits for 149 fishers under the Atypical Work Permit Scheme. Unfortunately, this “grossly underestimates the actual number of migrant employees in the sector by a factor of at least five and the vast majority of fishers fall into the undocumented category,” said Fleming.
“All of these fishers, from countries such as Egypt, the Philippines and Indonesia, are supporting two to three generations of their families at home who are totally dependent on them. Any decision to tie up boats will lock these workers out of existing support,” and have a corresponding detrimental effect on their families’ wellbeing, Fleming noted.
“Your office needs to hear our concerns in relation to the plight of these workers, both historically and in the context of the potential impact of any decisions that might be made as a consequence of the effects of Brexit.”
Fleming requested McConalogue meet with the ITF in order to make “an informed decision and ensure that the necessary protections are in place for all fishers,” irrespective of their documentation status.
Fleming said he hoped the inclusion of fishers in the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme would also be discussed during the meeting. “We believe that this interim payment should be included as part of the overall scheme to provide support for vessels tied up as a result of the new trade agreement,” said Fleming.