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trafficked to ireland

Major investigation by The Guardian lays bare 'modern slavery' on Irish fishing trawlers

The year-long investigation says workers are being trafficked to Ireland.

Updated 10.48 pm

The Guardian / YouTube

A MAJOR INVESTIGATION by The Guardian has alleged that workers from Africa and Asia are routinely illegally employed on Irish fishing trawlers and that the Irish government is “turning a blind eye” to trafficking in the sector.

The shocking report states that undocumented workers are often working for days on end without any sleep. Some are allegedly told not to leave their boat when it is in port because of their immigration status.

“Some migrant workers claim to have been deceived and appear to have been trafficked on to trawlers for labour exploitation, an abuse that would be a form of modern slavery,” the article says.

The year-long investigation from seven different reporters contains accounts from workers from countries like Ghana, Philippines and Egypt.

In one such case, a worker describes being employed on a €1,000-a-month contract that is for “unlimited hours” with no holidays or days off.

His pay is said to be one-quarter of what was paid to other crewmen from the local Cork area or elsewhere in the EU.

PastedImage-79342 The Guardian The Guardian

The article details that some of these workers are trafficked into the Republic through Belfast after being promised contracts in the UK.

Jennifer DeWan of Nasc,the Immigrant Support Centre, says that they have been aware of this problem “for some time” but that it is very difficult to pinpoint particular cases of exploitation because it often happens in such remote areas.

“This is a particularly vulnerable group of people because it’s not a group of people who’d be aware of their rights,” she told

“They’re not aware that they’re trafficked. These people don’t know to say that they’re trafficked. If they are in a situation where they are being exploited, they are not able to access any measures that might be there.”

Nasc says there needs to be more pro-active checks of employment practices in the sector to ensure that such exploitation is reduced.


The Guardian’s article describes how one of the routes the workers are smuggled through is via Heathrow Airport and then onto Belfast on a transit visa. It says that some of those trafficked are unaware that they would be entering the country illegally after being moved to the Republic.

The Migrants Rights Centre Ireland says that they too have been getting more and more reports of exploitation in the sector.

The group says they are currently investigating two cases of potential human trafficking and 15 cases of exploitation in the industry.

“It’s difficult to put a finger on these particular undocumented migrants because they are taken out to sea and rarely leave the port,” says the MRCI’s Gráinne O’Toole.

“They’ve no recourse in the law because the government say they are not employees, but are essentially self-employed because they share in the catch. But we’re saying they are working in exploitative conditions.”

“Profit drives human trafficking and we’re seeing a lot of unsavoury recruiting practices,” O’Toole adds.

The MRCI says these that the government needs to alter its visa practices to allow more non-EU workers work legally in the fisheries sector because there is clearly a demand for it.

The group adds that there also needs to be more efficient pathways for these workers to regularise their status here.

Responding to the allegations made in the article, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney says that he is “very concerned” about the claims.

“Particularly with regard to the safety of the workers concerned,” he said in a statement this evening.

The minister adds that a specific project led by gardaí has been set up to deal with the problem:

“The Department of Justice has confirmed that a project led by An Garda Síochána has been established specifically to address concerns in relation to potential human trafficking in the maritime sector (including fishing).”

“Any evidence substantiating the allegations made today should be directed immediately to An Garda Siochana for further investigation,” Coveney said.

- First published 4.48pm

Read: Man dies after being swept into sea off Waterford coast >

Read: Galway fisherman dies after becoming overcome by fumes on trawler >

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