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Aran Islands

Probe sought into conditions of 'stranded' migrant fishers whose boat ran aground off Inis Mór

Emergency services came to the rescue after the 21-metre fishing vessel got into difficulty last weekend.


AN INVESTIGATION HAS been sought into conditions faced by four West African fishermen who were working on a boat that ran aground off the Aran Islands last weekend.

The men had to be rescued from the fishing vessel as part of a multi-agency response that included the Coast Guard and RNLI.

The Dáil has heard allegations that the men were “bogusly” recruited to work in Ireland, having first thought they would be working in the UK, only to find themselves working in the Atlantic Ocean off the Galway coast. 

Solidarity TD Mick Barry claimed the men were “put working illegally” on an Irish boat, called ‘Ambitious’, until the vessel ran aground off Inis Mór and the men required rescue last Sunday.

Barry further alleged that attempts have been made by the owner “to send the four men back to Ghana in quicktime” before any authorities have an opportunity to hear of the “ordeal” they allegedly suffered.

Gardaí have told The Journal that the force is not investigating the incident off the Aran Islands. A spokesperson added that they are working with other agencies to help the men, who they said are now “stranded” in Ireland.

The vessel’s skipper said, through his solicitor, that he would not make any comment as a marine investigation was underway.

“The incident is subject to a marine investigation and our client will not be making any commentary in advance of such investigation concluding its business,” the solicitor said.

The skipper is not the owner of the boat.

Raised in Dáil 

A union which helps migrant fishers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has demanded a multi-agency investigation into the conditions the men faced.

It also made an appeal for the men to be allowed to remain in Ireland until investigations can be completed.

The Dáil heard that the ITF has reported issues concerning the ‘Ambitious’ vessel to gardaí, the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office and the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

Their case was raised in the Dáil this week by Cork North Central TD Barry who alleged the four men have provided documents showing they were issued UK contracts to work as deckhands.

He told the Dáil, “They were bogusly given the impression they would be working on UK flagged vessels and were issued UK deckhands contracts promising £1,300 per month (€1,525). This enabled them to receive a UK seafarers transit visa. However, once they landed in Belfast, they were put working illegally on an Irish flagged vessel.”


The crew of the 21-metre fishing vessel got into difficulty after the boat ran aground on the northern side of Inis Mór off the coast of Galway in the early hours of last Sunday. They were eventually winched to safety by the Irish Irish Coast Guard.

Speaking to The Journal this week from Galway, James Ewuah (28) said he and three other crew members arrived in Belfast last June.

“We were hired to go from Ghana and to get from Belfast to Port Kilkeel [in Co Down],” he said.

After that, he said, they boarded ‘Ambitious’ and were brought into Irish waters.

8e7d755e-3d27-4b66-89c2-9df02d189120 James and his fellow crew, Isaac Sekyi and Peter Komedzie aboard the Ambitious.

The men are currently staying at a garda station in Galway while the ITF attempts to source emergency accommodation.

Ewuah said they have been able to rest there since the weekend’s rescue. Describing what had happened, he said they had to “fight for their lives” after the boat ran aground on rock amid darkness on Sunday morning.

He paid thanks to rescuers for their efforts at successfully winching each man from the boat and into the safety of the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 115.

The RNLI have said the fishing vessel had started to take on water and was beginning to list to the left when its lifeboat crew arrived. The fishermen had abandoned the trawler and were in a life raft alongside the vessel. 

Ewuah said the men want to be able to resolve “some certain things before we can” leave Ireland and have also appealed for investigations by Ireland’s marine agencies.

Calls for investigation

Michael O’Brien, an ITF representative, told The Journal that the circumstances of the incident last weekend and the conditions faced by the crew need to be investigated.

This was echoed by Barry on the floor of the Dáil, who appealed for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to support calls that the men be permitted to remain in Ireland so that “proper inquiries” can be made.

Varadkar replied that he was aware of the “very real” issues around the “abuse of immigration law and employment law” in the industry, but declined to comment until he learned more. He said:

“Deputy Barry raised the very real and ongoing issues around the abuse of immigration law and employment law in the fishing industry. I do not know enough about the particular case to comment on it. It is the first I have heard about that case.”

A Garda spokesperson told The Journal that the force is not conducting any criminal or official investigation but are working with agencies to assist “four foreign national males who became stranded in this jurisdiction” as a result of the vessel running aground.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) said it is aware of the incident and has commenced an investigation into how the boat came into difficulty.

The purpose of an MCIB investigation is to establish the facts in order to “make safety recommendations aimed at the avoidance of similar marine casualties in the future”, a spokesperson for the agency said.

“It is non-prosecutorial and does not apportion blame. The Board do not comment or elaborate on ongoing investigations,” the agency added.

The Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office and the Department of Transport have been contacted.