Union wants police investigation after Ghanaian workers survive Irish trawler sinking

Aran Islands RNLI rescued the crew of an Irish fishing vessel on 3 March.
Aran Islands RNLI rescued the crew of an Irish fishing vessel on 3 March | Photo courtesy of RNLI/Gerry Canning
2 Min

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is claiming four African fishermen who survived the sinking of a trawler off the west coast of Ireland were fraudulently employed.

ITF’s Dublin office said it was contacted by four Ghanaian fishers who survived the sinking of the F/V Ambitious off the coast of Galway on 3 March 2024.

ITF Fisheries Campaign Lead Michael O’Brien said his group wants the Irish police to investigate the circumstances behind the Ghanaian crew’s employment in Ireland.

“The fishers provided the ITF with documentation which shows that they were deceived into thinking that they were being legally employed in the U.K.," he said. "They were issued U.K. deckhand contracts promising GBP 1,300 [USD 1,664, EUR 1,521] per month and letters of invitation on the strength of which they were given U.K. seafarer transit visas. [However], on arrival in Belfast last June, they were put to work on the Irish-flagged vessel Ambitious.”

After the sinking of the Ambitious, the fishers had to “resist efforts by the vessel owner to take them out of the state with a view to sending them back to Ghana via Belfast,” O’Brien said.

“Had this involuntary repatriation been allowed to take place, it would have seriously impeded efforts to have their grievances and the circumstances of the sinking properly investigated,” he said.

O’Brien called on the Irish government to speed up the introduction of a new work permit scheme that replaces an earlier system Atypical Work Permit Scheme for Non-EEA fishers – the European Economic Area includes the E.U. and several non-E.U. states but not Britain.

 “Since then, the promised integration of future non-EEA recruits into the more advantageous General Work Permit Scheme,” O’Brien said.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the country’s equivalent of a prime minister, acknowledged what he described as the “reality of the abuse of immigration and employment law in the fishing industry” during parliamentary questioning.

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